NGO Pusat Komas has urged the Education Ministry to educate itself to respect and appreciate all religions and beliefs.
This comes after the ministry issued a stern warning to Methodist Girls' School (MGS) in Penang for the alleged recital of a Christian prayer during an awards ceremony.
"We hope the Education Ministry will educate itself and allow schools to school us into respecting and appreciating all religions and beliefs. Only then, education in Malaysia will matter for our next generation.
"Pusat Komas urges the ministry to seriously concentrate to revamp and groom the education system to be an arena where unity is emphasised and built on par with academic excellence," the NGO said in a statement today.
Pusat Komas feels that the ministry was ignorant of the Federal Constitution when it "bullied" the school through the "unnecessary" warning.
It cited Article 11 of the Constitution, which states that every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate.
This means that the religious practices of different faiths are allowed, guaranteed and protected by the Constitution. Thus any claim that recitals of prayers are attempts of proselytisation is shallow-minded, it said.
"Malaysians who have studied in national schools or attended official ceremonies would have experienced the recital of Islamic prayers.
"Nevertheless, it was not rebutted as a subtle trick of converting people of other faiths to Islam.
"Yet again, it reminds us of the civil rights of practising beliefs as enshrined in the Federal Constitution, although we agree with the position of Islam as the official religion of this nation," Pusat Komas said.
The NGO also noted that the Education Act does not mention anything about the prohibition of reciting prayers of a different faith, other than Islam.
"Which begs the question: what was the ground for this so-called 'stern warning'?" it asked.
If the Education Ministry and the government are truly concerned about the threats of conversion or the presence of religion as a divisive element to Malaysian unity, Pusat Komas said, it would like to expand on Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's call to revoke religion from education.
"Understanding that it would need better exploration and critical engagements with relevant stakeholders in implementing crucial reforms in the education sector, it is encouraged that the government will champion true reforms instead of pandering to racial and religious rhetoric," it added.
In December last year, Mahathir had said he wanted to cut back on religious studies as part of the overhaul on the Malaysian education system.