8/15/11 Malaysia (Jakarta Globe) – Muslim groups in Malaysia have come out in force to demand that action be taken against those who proselytize Muslims, amid a raging controversy over recent allegations that some Christians had tried to convert them.
The 22 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the youth wing of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) revived earlier calls for a law to be passed banning apostasy, as the latest allegations continued to raise tensions in Malaysia.
The call came as Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) over the weekend submitted to the Selangor chief minister a preliminary report of its raid on a fund-raising dinner at a church two weeks ago. The raid, which took place at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church in Petaling Jaya on Aug 3, followed allegations of Christians proselytising Muslim guests.
Church leaders have decried the raid by Jais, saying it was heavy-handed and that the enforcement personnel had not produced any search warrant. Critics also say there was no proof that proselytisation was actually taking place.
According to online media Malaysian Insider and Malaysiakini, the NGOs over the weekend issued a statement stressing their commitment to “defending the faith of Muslims held in this country from… encroachment”. They also said they would seek to uphold existing legislation against proselytising Muslims and called for stronger laws to be passed regarding conversions.
“We stressed that matters relating to the faith of Muslims are very sensitive issues that could affect racial harmony, thus calling on all parties not to act against the stipulated law,” the statement said.
“We unanimously resolve to safeguard the Islamic faith in this country from any form of transgression in accordance to Islam’s position as the religion of the federation and existing laws, as well as call for an anti-apostasy law.”
PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan said that suggestions for an anti-apostasy law had been raised since 1988, but had been rejected in Parliament several times. He added that while Islam was a “religion of discourse”, a law was needed for those who “cannot be persuaded through arguments”.
“To curb and control those who will no longer listen to arguments, we need laws,” he was cited as saying by Malaysiakini.
Last week at a mosque in Shah Alam, Ezam had declared an “all-out war” against those who attacked the Islamic faith, and said he would “burn” Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider.
Yesterday, however, he explained that he had meant otherwise. “Malaysiakini/Malaysian Insider are cyber news portals. No threat to burn any reporters/building,” he said in Malay on his Twitter account.
“The remarks were only symbolic of the anger towards them for burning the hearts of the Muslim community.”