Public outcry in Malaysia over covert conversion of children to Islam – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) – Multi-religious Malaysia has been ruffled by recent attempts by Islamists to convert children to their faith.

On June 6 this year, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Taoism (MCCBCHST) called on Malaysia’s religious authorities and the country’s Education Ministry to probe alleged covert conversions of non-Muslim school students into Islam, following contentious religious preacher Firdaus Wong’s TikTok video where he counseled a man on how to address teenagers who were curious about Islam, an article by Malaysiakini (“Malaysia Now”) reported.

Notably, Wong’s video depicted himself discussing with a man, believed to be a religious teacher, on the course of action to adopt if a student wishes to convert to Islam. Wong proposed that the student should be informally converted by reciting the “Kalimah Syahadah” and delaying his or her registration of “official conversion” till 18 years of age, Herald Malaysia reported. In a controversial move, Wong suggested avoiding any television recordings or other proof of conversions, potentially preventing students’ parents from finding out about their children’s decisions.

In response, the MCCBCHST vehemently decried Wong’s suggestions, condemning it “as immoral, unconstitutional, and illegal”, as per media reports.

Significantly, even a Muslim lawmaker, Hassan Karim, from incumbent Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s party broachedthe subject in the Malaysian parliament, admitting that Wong’s actions had sparked alarm among non-Muslims in Malaysia.

“Many police reports have been lodged over the act of [Firdaus Wong Wai Hung] converting non-Muslim children to Islam without the knowledge of their parents,” Karim said in comments quoted by UCA News, alluding to Wong.

“I am a Muslim who takes this matter seriously for the sake of the harmony of our country. The actions of this individual has caused concern and annoyance to the non-Muslim community in Malaysia,” Karim added.

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Malaysian law currently outlaws the conversion of minors without parental consent. Thus, it was unsurprising that Wong’s suggestions ignited concerns among parents and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) about the potential conversions of children to Islam.

As per Article 12 Clause 3 & 4 under Malaysia’s Federal Constitution:

  • Clause (3) – No person shall be required to receive instruction in or to take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion other than his own.
  • Clause (4) – For the purposes of Clause (3), the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parents or guardian.

Besides, the MCCBCHST mentioned the grave ramifications of clandestine conversions to Islam on non-Muslim families, declaring that parents would be shattered upon realizing their child’s secret conversion. The council then underscored that schools, meant to places of learning, should not facilitate such clandestine conversions.

Meanwhile, calls have been made to the Malaysian government to investigate Wong, as per a report by Free Malaysia Today (FMT). In particular, two lawyers and an activist have urged for police reports to be lodged against Wong, demanding his arrest.

Lawyer Rajesh Nagarajan posited that Wong should be probed for offending religious feelings and exhorted impacted parents to lodge police reports, as cited by FMT.

Rajesh stated that, from a legal standpoint, Wong had “somewhat confessed” to converting minors when he alleged that he was familiar with handling such cases, FMT added.

“That’s a confession he has done it (converting minors) before. You don’t go around converting other people’s children,” Rajesh declared during a press conference.

Likewise, lawyer Sachpreetraj Singh Sohanpal slammed the Malaysian government’s apparent silence on the issue, lambasting it for double standards. “The Madani government has always warned about touching on topics revolving around the 3Rs,” he said, referring to issues related to race, religion, and royalty. “Yet, it has not made any statement on this matter.”

Similarly, S. Shashi Kumar, president of the Global Human Rights Federation, pointed out the Malaysian government’s initial lack of response to Wong’s video and the public backlash that ensued. “After the issue was first highlighted, there have been numerous press statements. Yet, to this day, the education ministry, the police, and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) have not stepped in,” Kumar said at that time.

On June 26, Wong confirmed that Malaysian police summoned him to record his statement linked to investigations about his aforementioned controversial video, Malay Mail reported. On the same note, Petaling Jaya district police chief Assistant Commissioner Shahrulnizam Jaafar@Ismail authenticated reports with Utusan Malaysia that authorities have reached out to Wong for investigations.

Also, Malaysia Hindu Sangam spokesman Arun Doraisamy urged the country’s education ministry to prohibit Wong from public schools. “This would provide non-Muslim parents with some comfort in knowing that individuals like Firdaus are not in contact with their children,” he said.

“The government must issue an official statement denouncing such acts of covertly converting minors, which abuse our students,” Doraisamy elaborated, in statements cited by Herald Malaysia.

Media reports have indicated that Wong is a protégé of Indian national Zakir Naik, notorious for his incendiary anti-religious and anti-racial comments. Naik first arrived in Malaysia in 2012 to give several talks, which were also attended by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, UCA News reported.

Since 2016, Naik has managed to garner robust support in Malaysia despite facing an arrest warrant from the Indian government on grounds that the preacher backed “terrorism”, Al Jazeera stated. However, Naik enjoys considerable support from Tamil and Malayalam-speaking Muslims in Malaysia who usually sponsor his events, the Hudson Institute has posited. For years, Islamic clerics and jurists or muftis with a significant presence on Malaysia’s national television and mainstream media had captured Muslim-Malay audiences, as per a commentary published by the Singapore-based ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.

Another commentary by UCA News stated, “This new breed of controversy-courting preacher and tele-evangelist tend to bring politics into religion. There is concern that Muslims are being schooled by a group of media-savvy people with no formal training in religious studies and that they are likely being used by political parties as influencers.”

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