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Malaysian police free 9 Christians mistakenly accused of trying to convert Muslim students

ICC Note: The arrest of these 9 Christians illustrates how dangerous it is to simply practice Christianity in Malaysia, where it is illegal for a Muslim to convert.

By Julia Zappei
07/16/2009 Malaysia (AP) – Malaysian police Wednesday freed nine Christians who were arrested and held overnight after a university official mistakenly accused them of trying to convert Muslim students.

The nine were released without charge, but their arrests could deepen frustrations among religious minorities who feel authorities in this Muslim-majority nation increasingly ignore their rights in favor of Islam.

Proselytizing of Muslims is forbidden in Malaysia, although the reverse is allowed. Muslims, who comprise nearly two-thirds of Malaysia’s 28 million people, are also not legally permitted to change religion.

A security officer at the Universiti Putra Malaysia handed the nine suspects to police late Tuesday because he believed they were giving Christian pamphlets to Muslims, said Zahedi Ayob, the police chief of Sepang district near Kuala Lumpur.

Police found they were only submitting questionnaires to other Christians for a research project about religious understanding, Zahedi told The Associated Press. Five were students at the university while the others were friends from Hong Kong.

Malaysia’s Constitution guarantees freedom of worship for minorities, who include Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. But Muslims who try to convert are often sent by Islamic authorities for counseling and rehabilitation, and some have also been imprisoned for apostasy for up to three years.

Minorities say their right to practice religion freely has been increasingly threatened by Muslim authorities in recent years. The government denies any discrimination.

Full Story.