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Whether Zahid Abbas realises it or not, his recent letter Religion is never wrong, only believers betrays bad faith on his part.

Zahid purports to argue for religious equality and mutual respect in the name of universal values. And yet he finds it necessary to deliberately get his facts wrong so that Islam may come off appearing more perfect than other religions.

He does this by asserting that Islam is the oldest religion of humankind and that Christianity only emerged between the biblical times of Abraham and Muhammad. Surely Zahid cannot be ignorant of the fact that both Islam and Christianity lay claim to the same genealogy which is traceable to Adam and Eve.

How respectful can it be to truncate the history of other people's religion so that one's own may appear to have a longer history, as if being the first to appear is infallible proof of its superiority?

I agree with Zahid's statement that: 'It is the believers of a faith that are bad, never the faith.' That is why I think Zahid should reflect on his inner beliefs which emerge from between the lines of his letter.

It does no one any good to say that Islam is not a religion of intolerance which should be respected by all, or that one ought to respect non-Muslim religions when one acts to the contrary. This, unfortunately, seems rampant in Malaysia, if we care to look around us.

Recall several years back when George Michael's single Jesus to a Child was first released in Malaysia. When the song was aired on local radio stations, the word 'Jesus' was bleeped out so that all one heard when it came to the chorus was a strange split-second silence followed by ' to a child'. Is this the respect one ought to show other religions that Zahid is talking about?

The latest demonstration of bigotry can be seen in the way in which the movie The Passion of Christ was released to a limited audience of Christians.

It is telling that the May 2004 issue of Al-Islam (a local monthly Islamic magazine) supports the full release of the film not because it might promote inter-religious understanding but because ' ... it exposes what was mentioned in the al-Quran, namely that the Jews were Christ killers' (see page 15 of the magazine). On the cover of the magazine, there is a headline which blares: Nabi Isa tidak akan bangkit semula.

Is this the respect one ought to show other religions that Zahid is talking about?