Should a sitting prime minister be personally and directly involved in the conversion of an individual to Islam in Malaysia today?
That seems to be the burning question and subject of online and face-to-face discourse over the last few days, some polite and others bordering on vulgarity.
Seriously?! Aren’t there any other burning questions that demand attention in Malaysia today?
The people involved have already explained all the details about Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s participation in the ceremony.
Yet, too many people, ranging from ‘Indian activists’ to NGOs, are still peddling false narratives and misinformation. In doing so, they are stoking anger and unwarranted anxiety on both sides of the divide.
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This was not pre-planned (gimmick or otherwise). It was not a forced conversion. It did not involve a minor but a 27-year-old ethnic Indian man. It was done on the request of both the person in charge and the convert who considered it an honour.
Yes, there are many policy decisions and actions by Muslim religious authorities, preachers and political operatives that have hurt and angered non-Muslims. These actions have effectively eroded their religious freedom and rights over the years.
Such actions include the unilateral conversion of minors and the separation of mothers from their converted children. Then there is the ban on the use of the word Allah and some other Arabic words by non-Muslims in West Malaysia. Non-Muslims are also banned from proselytising among Muslims. Cases of ‘body-snatching’ even after cremation or burial surface periodically. There are also restrictions on the building of non-Muslim places of worship. Think of the imposition of dress codes. Recall the forced disappearance and kidnapping of Christian and other preachers who are seen as threats to national security.
Yes, it is our right and responsibility to call out the government and relevant authorities when any policy, law or executive action curtails our basic right to religious freedom.
But why conflate all of this with this current issue of the PM’s participation in a conversion ceremony? Isn’t it his right as a practising Muslim?
A Muslim friend shared that “it is the dream of many Muslim men to be the one to initiate a conversion as one earns merit points and it paves the way to Jannah”.
Why should a non-Muslim interfere or get upset about this? In what way does it impinge on the rights of non-Muslims? How can this be conflated to deduce that the PM has neglected non-Muslims or Indians, specifically?
One ‘Indian activist’ even urged Indians to boycott the upcoming by-elections in Johor over this issue. But in the same breath he claimed he is “not asking for Indians to support Perikatan Nasional”.
Seriously?! I thought we should be happy if, in doing this, the PM can win over more Muslims to support and strengthen his “unity government”. This would work in favour of those hoping to see a more stable PH-led administration… as long as it doesn’t sacrifice any basic principles and rights.
Where is our objectivity and sense of fairplay in this? We should not reinforce false narratives and feed into the misinformation surrounding this issue. We have a duty to correct misconceptions, no matter what the optics, and address thorny and even painful issues in a peaceful and mature manner.