Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) today said that non-Muslim students, who attended a scholarship interview, should not have been quizzed on Islam, a state Mara official said in response to allegations of religious bigotry.
Sarawak Mara deputy state director Mariam Mohtar told The Malaysian Insider that officers from their headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, who had conducted the scholarship interviews, are being investigated.
Mariam was responding to Sarawak Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing who had earlier described Mara as “stupid” for quizzing the students on Islam during their interview for the financial assistance.
Masing’s attack on Mara was prompted by a complaint he received from a straight “A” Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) student, Nigel Unchat Jeremaiah, who said he was asked questions on hudud, "rukun Solat" (prayers) and "adat menziarah jenazah" (visiting graves), among others, during the interview last Saturday.
Mariam told The Malaysian Insider that the investigation now would probably look into how the interview with Nigel was done.
Mariam, who herself took part in the interview, but with another group, to "back up the officers from Kuala Lumpur", said Mara has a module on the questions as well as "strict" guidelines" on how the interview should be conducted.
"Yes, there are questions on Islam but they are strictly to be directed at Muslims," she said.
Non-Muslims, she said, would be asked, what she described as, "civic questions".
"These are basically general knowledge questions, like their opinion on the breakdown in a family.
"These questions are basically to assess their general knowledge and level of thinking.
"This is a group interview and we know who are Muslims and who are non-Muslims.
"If the student is a Muslim, he could probably get a question on his religion," she said.
Meanwhile, Nigel admitted the questions on Islam were not directed at him and the other non-Muslim students individually.
He said the interviewer threw the questions to the whole group and told them that they would be evaluated individually on their answers.
Nigel, who attended the interview at Maktab Rendah Sains Mara in Semariang outside Kuching, said out of about 30 students who went for the interview that Saturday afternoon, about 10 were non-Muslims.
He feared his failure to answers the questions would now cost him the scholarship.
Nigel is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his two older siblings - one studying at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and the other at University Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).
He would only know if he is successful in obtaining a Mara scholarship when the result is out on May 8. – April 30, 2014. TMI
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