Posted tagged ‘conversion to islam’

Not an act of God, but the folly of zealots

July 4, 2013

The freedom to practice one’s religion is a fundamental liberty enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution. But hardly two months after the 13th general election UMNO is tabling the highly controversial conversion bill despite opposition and reservation from within BN component members. The image that the country is trying hard to push, that Malaysia is truly Asia, with a plural and diverse population, is just the diametric opposite of the increased radicalization of UMNO. This is truly worrying and the future has a dark horizon looming. Umno has once again shown its true colours: that they care two hoots about non-Malays and non-Muslims and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib’s Razak’s National Reconciliation effort.

Amending a legislation to legalize the conversion of a minor who has neither free will nor knowledge about the religion he/she has been converted to tantamount to bullying and forcing the issue down the throats of minorities. Under the new legislation, a parent or guardian can convert a minor. Allowing even guardians to convert a child is a flagrant abuse of power and is against the free choice option of children. Logically, all conversion should be after 18 years old where the person knows and understand what he is going into.

The tabling of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 in Parliament last week, which allows only one parent’s consent, or that of the guardian, to convert a minor to Islam has been done with no consideration for the feelings and wishes of minorities. The consent of both the parents is a must and no two ways about it. This is what the cabinet in 2009 decided and why the change now?

Even the Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa, one of the most respected Islamic scholars in the world today, wrote under the sub-heading “Freedom of religion in Islam”, “The essential question before us is can a person who is Muslim choose a religion other than Islam? The answer is yes, they can, because the Qur’an says, ‘Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion,’ [Qur’an, 109:6], and, “Whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve,’ [Qur’an, 18:29], and, ‘There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is distinct from error’ [Qur’an, 2:256].”  But the UMNO leaders with the holier than thou attitude, may not agree with grand mufti of Egypt.

By persisting to table this sensitive and distasteful bill in parliament, UMNO is trying to whip up Malay Muslim chauvinism to instill fear and reprisal on non-Malays for voting Pakatan Rakyat in GE13. With large number of young Malays and urban voters supporting Pakatan Rakyat, such tactics by UMNO will only bring their own downfall sooner.

UMNO and their supporters instead of countering fundamentalism are themselves becoming more radicalized. The largest and dominant political party is being increasingly insensitive to minorities which does not augur well for the future of Malaysia remaining a land of plural and diverse tolerance or even being truly Asia. Malaysians are now turning towards Pakatan Rakyat leaders to bring about the inclusiveness and provide the constitutional guarantees to all citizens. Do unto others what you want others do to you.

Misleading advertisement of FINAS

November 8, 2010

The TV advertisement of 1Malaysia promotion by FINAS in RTM/TV3/ASTRO during Deepavali celebration this year is inundated with encouraging religious conversion of Hindus to Islam. It shows how a Hindu youth married to Muslim girl can still celebrate Deepavali with his parents. The boy’s family initially hostile to his Muslim conversion but accept him after the birth of his children. Anyone marries to Muslim in Malaysia must convert to Islam and this fact is hidden in this advertisement. This deliberately hiding of facts is mischievous and misleading the Hindu viewers. It’s leading the viewers into the belief that religious conversion may be hostile in the beginning but will be accepted upon the birth of children into the family. FINAS is silently misleading Hindu youths into religious conversion as part of 1Malaysia campaign.

The girl who is married to this convert refuses to eat food cooked by Hindu family until she is assured that the food is cooked by another Muslim. This episode only depicts that the Hindus are inferior to Muslims that they can’t eat food cooked by Hindus, not halal I suppose. If that is the case what is the motive to show such an insulting and belittling advertisement during Deepavali which is a Hindu festival. This only shows the apparent intolerance of the authorities in reluctantly accepting the religious and cultural indifferences.    

The apparent pleasantries on the surface of the advertisement ignore the fact that converts over time will be subjected to directives from JAIS, MAIS and other religious bodies. Converts will be discouraged and pulled away from celebrating Deepavali but these underlying consequences are conveniently covered up. A Hindu convert is welcomed by FINAS but if a Muslim converts to other religion than it is apostasy. Why the double standard? The advertisement reveals the hidden agenda of BN government in dealing with culture and religious feelings and sensitivities of Indians and others. 1Malaysia seems to be not accepting the diversities of difference ethnics in Malaysia but subtly converting others into Muslim religion. Such hidden parochial agenda doesn’t augur well for the well being and future of minorities and their children. This episode also proves that the minorities in Malaysia are under fear that their legitimate rights to practice their religious festival might be under threat. The guarantees of religious freedom are under threat by the proponents of religious hardliners. This advertisement trail goes against the spirit of article 295-298A.

Articles 295-298A of the Malaysian Penal Code provides penalties for those who commit offenses against religion. The penalties range from up to three years in prison or a fine of up to US$1,000 (approximately). Prosecutions for blasphemy usually target those who offend Islam, but an insult to any religion can give rise to prosecution. Clearly FINAS and the film producer have violated the article 295-298A. Action must be taken against FINAS and the advertisement producer.