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Freedom to join and leave a religion is
vitally necessary and important in a multi-religious society to
safeguard mutual respect, peace and harmony between the diverse and
different ethnic groupings in Malaysia
by Ronnie Liu (Petaling Jaya, Wednesday):
by Ronnie Liu
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday):
What has happened to Mount Everest hero M. Moorthy and other Muslim converts and their families have caused serious suspicion and unhappiness among the Non- Muslim communities.
Muslim converts in the country have been facing tremendous difficulties in the event that they wish to leave the religion or to reconvert to their former religion.
More and more Malaysians are taking their cases on conversion of religion to DAP leaders of late. It appears to us that we are having a huge problem which certainly warrants immediate attention and solution in order to maintain peace, harmony and mutual respect between the different and diverse ethnic groupings in the country.
The Government must step in to rectify these problems through law reforms and the various religious bodies representing the different major religions must come together to seek an amicable solution before the peoples were split even further.
We strongly believe that freedom to join and leave a religion is vitally necessary and important in a multi-religious society to safeguard mutual respect, peace and harmony between the diverse and different ethnic groupings in Malaysia.
The case in question below is good example and certainly needs a good solution if we were to continue to enjoy freedom, equality, peace and harmony in the country.
Ms Wong, in her late twenties, was converted some nine years ago at the time when she was marrying to her former husband. The marriage did not work out very well and the couple had chosen to separate their ways. The custody of the children went to her husband with limited access to her.
She wanted to leave the religion but it has been very difficult if not impossible for her for the past four years. She was being sent around between the Selangor religious department and Perkim and all her efforts went in vain.
Under the current circumstances, Ms Wong would not be able to start a new family with any Non –Muslim unless and until the man wishes to convert to Islam as well.
It would be more sensible for the religious department to allow her to leave the religion and restore her former religion if that is her will. Using her language, "what's the point of keeping her as a Muslim by compulsion when she has already determined to go back to her root? A person who has decided to leave a particular religion would not likely follow the practices and rituals of the religion concerned. Keeping her or him in name will only tarnish the religion.
DAP has called for the amendment of Article 121 (1A) and other relevant clauses to prevent confusion and more importantly, preserving the rights of the Non-Muslims and the Muslims enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
Anymore snatches of bodies and compulsions of religion can only add more fuels and animosity to the already tensed situations. What happened to Nyonya Tahir has served to cool the situation and brought new hopes for amicable solutions. We must continue to seek a real and permanent solution to the problems involving conversion of Islam as the case of Nyonya Tahir is largely seen as a compromised solution right after the aftermath of M. Moorthy.
The Government should now seriously consider setting up the much awaited Interfaith Commission and allow the commission to help resolve problems and disputes involving peoples of different faith.
The religious leaders of different faiths in the country must get together to explore ways and means to attain a consensus on the matter.
Religion should remain as an affair between the individual and his or her God. Freedom of religion must include the freedom to join and the freedom to leave.
In Indonesia, peoples of different faiths need not convert for the sake of inter-marriage. This is something our local religious leaders can seriously considering adopting for greater understanding and mutual respect among the peoples of different faith.
* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP NGO bureau chief