Suhakam Calls on Malaysian Government to Address Religious Status Problem

01/25/2021 Malaysia (International Christian Concern) – The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has called on government agencies to deal with ID cases marking the wrong religious status of Sarawakians, including the Orang Asal communities.

According to Free Malaysia Today, Sarawak Suhakam commissioner Madeline Berma said the state’s Islamic Religious Department should also expedite the handling of such cases. Oftentimes, non-Muslim ethnic group Orang Asal were categorized as Muslims when applying for a new MyKad (Malaysian ID) because their names contained the word “bin” or “binti,” which are commonly associated with Muslim names.

Berma added that many indigenous people had been wrongly listed as Muslims on their Mykad, which is particularly common among Christian Bumiputeras.

“When a few individuals of indigenous ethnicities or communities want to change to a new MyKad, applicants who are not Muslims or have never practiced the Islamic faith have their status changed to Islam (Muslim),” she said.

Although the religious affairs minister told her that this is purely an administrative issue, she is made aware that those who wanted to have “Islam” removed from their MyKad after a divorce found the process to be “tedious, complicated and lengthy.”

In Muslim-majority Malaysia, to remove “Islam” from MyKad typically involves a syarie lawyer (a lawyer who practices Islamic law). But this creates a challenge for those who have never adhered to Islam in the first place but have had “Islam” listed on their cards.

Berma also urged the education ministry and state education department to come up with guidelines to ensure no child was forced to attend religious classes when they are non-Muslims.

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