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09/14/2018 Malaysia (International Christian Concern) – According to a study published by Églises d’Asie, religious freedom is deteriorating in Malaysia, with different religious groups facing respective challenges. The newly elected government does not seem to place freedom of religion as a priority for the country.

The national identity card in Malaysia notes religion and race. Ethnic Malays are legally required to be Muslim. Yet, they cannot freely practice religion as they see fit. Shia Islam and other non-Sunni sects are banned. For not fasting or for refusing to pray, they can be prosecuted and women are under increasing pressure to wear the Islamic veil. Those who are classified as Muslims cannot officially convert to another religion.

For Christians, the highest court in Malaysia rejected a request from the country’s Christians for the right to use the word “Allah”, which had historically been the word for “God” in the Malay versions of the Bible. Meanwhile, the rights of non-Muslims are often replaced by Sharia laws as interpreted by Malaysian courts in cases involving both Muslims and non-Muslims. Interreligious couples composed of a Muslim and a non-Muslim have three choices: to convert, to leave the country, or to live together out of wedlock.

Critics are concerned that as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is now the leader of the new Pakatan Harapan (“Coalition of Hope”) government and Anwar Ibrahim set to lead the coalition in the near future, all hope for widespread reforms in favor of freedom of religion is bound to fade, as little has been done.

For interviews with Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].