KUCHING – Archbishop Simon Poh was heckled by a group of Muslim youths, who shouted “Allahuakbar” at him, when he was making his exit at the end of a Federal Court hearing in Kuching on 27 Feb 2018.
The court dismissed the appeals of three Muslim converts and a Muslim by birth to have their apostasy cases heard in a civil court, ruling that the Sarawak Syariah court has jurisdiction to hear the apostasy applications.
Kuching district police chief Abang Ahmad Abang Julai described the verbal abuse of Bishop Simon Peter Poh by the youths, who were at the court complex car park, as a “minor incident.”
He said the youths had gotten “carried away emotionally,” and their action showed that they did not understand the issues brought before the court.
“Everything was under control. The bishop was actually shielded and protected by other Muslims, and escorted to his car,” he said.
Archbishop Poh was shaken but unhurt in the incident.
A video now making the rounds shows him walking alone, with his robe making him stand out from among a sea of Muslims who had gathered at the court complex in Petra Jaya to hear the court’s decision.
When the heckling started, Muslim youth quickly threw a cordon around him and escorted him safely out of the court complex.
“In Sarawak, we work as friends,” the bishop said in the video.
“Let us not allow emotions to overcome everything.
“I am sure the state authorities, the chief minister, is watching. We will do our best to… rebuild harmony.“I am not rattled by this (heckling incident). There were many good people… who were around me to make sure that I was okay.”
No arrests were made following the incident.
Police estimate the crowd at the court complex to number around 400.
In a statement circulated among chat groups later, Archbishop Poh appealed to Christians to “understand this case carefully.”
“This case is not the Church vs Islam but on the dispute of who has the jurisdiction on allowing a Muslim to murtad (apostatise), either the syariah court or the civil court Naturally, since we have the Syariah court to govern the Muslims, the Syariah court has the power to grant Muslims the leave from Islam according to the law. Therefore, we did not lose this case, nor did we win it. What is important, now that this is clear, where do we want to go with it?
“The court, be it the Syariah or the civil, are only to apply the law. Thus next, we should pray that the lawmakers will table a just law to face this issue. Do not lose hope. Pray, continue to pray,” he said.
Archbishop Poh added that he found the panel of judges which heard arguments on Feb 26 before announcing its decision on Feb 27 to be “very neutral and fair.” – The Malaysian Insight