Non-Muslims and Islam in Malaysia


Let’s talk about something which many non-Muslim would not want to talk about for a change. The title really says it all, and this is not me being racist or trying to ‘heat up’ things, but rather me, trying to give my Muslim readers, and perhaps friends, a little in sight of why ‘non-Muslim parents are worried about Islam, or in the case of a Sabahan family, why did this dad shed tears upon knowing his daughter had converted to Islam.

Before I go on further, let me first say that this article is exclusive to Malaysia, a country where Islam is considered the official religion, in which, Sabah and Sarawak are equal partners despite the fact (I’m not so sure about Sabah), that Sarawak has no official religion.

I’d also like to point out that like all religion, Islam has good values which is suppose to make one become a better person, and since I am not very well versed in Islam, let me not say more on the teachings of the religion.  I’ll stop at saying that I have a lot of awesome Muslim friends, and they have, in their very own way, made me respect them and their religion because they respected me and my own religion.

Pardon the long ‘mukadimah’.  I have to set the record straight because religion matters are sensitive and it’s best really not to say anything about them.  Unfortunately, many new generation Muslims seem to not understand why non-Muslims are unhappy over certain religious issues lately, with some also failing to understand what is wrong with sharing Islamic related things to everyone.

I am not sure in other countries, and I am honestly lazy to look it up, but in Malaysia, there is a law that prohibits one from returning to your former religion once you have converted to Islam. This particular provision, has always been a thorn in the Malaysian society but since Islam is a delicate subject, none would actually want to address it especially nowadays with people doing character assassination on social media, or even worst threatening to kill them for just bringing up the topic. Mind you, not all Muslims do this, but the vast number of people willing to go to such extend is worrying.

A few court cases (like Lina Joy) in the past have however shown that converting out of Islam can happen in Malaysia, but you will not be able to change your religion in your MyKad (Identity card), hence keeping you officially as a Muslim despite the fact you do not practice the faith any more.  This simply means that you can live your life as a non-Muslim, but when you die, you will be buried according to the Islamic ways, and when I put this statement, I do not mean that you can simply convert out of Islam because the law says it is not possible (as I know).

That said, converting to Islam in Malaysia means you would be converting for life and there’s practically no turning back, even if you decide otherwise. This fact, small as it may be to some, means a lot for many non-Muslims because of so many reasons which are inter-related with food, culture and of course freedom of religion. However, the fact you will not be able to choose your religion anymore (unlike if you converted to another religion) is good enough to bring fear to many non-Muslims, especially parents.  – On a positive note however, by having such rule means you must be really ready to embrace Islam, hence conversion (to me this includes propagation of the religion itself) of minors, whom are easily influenced, should not be done at any cost.  Unfortunately, as reports surface, this has been going on.

There’s really nothing great about PERKASA, the ultra extreme group said to be fighting for the Malays and Islam. Together with ISMA, they have single handed-ly made non-Muslim become less fancied with Islam due to their extreme views on a lot of things. Personally, I still can’t figure out how calls to ‘burn Bibles’ is said to be okay, and how leaders in both organisations continue to publicly create disharmony and tension with their insensitive, ‘talking before thinking’ statements.

It is my personal belief that the vast majority of moderate Muslims do not agree with their views, but they will not dare speak up because both PERKASA and ISMA seem to be powerful NGOs with their extreme ways, and seem to get the support of influential people. I too am afraid of them as a non-Muslim, so for this article, PERKASA means “Persatuan Kaki Santau”, and ISMA stands for “International Super Malays”. Not in anyway related to the ultra extremist rights group led by Ibrahim Ali.

And then we have ISIS.  Call it propaganda or what-so-ever, but despite ISIS being internationally denounced, they continue to grow to fight for their cause and their public cruelty has cause many non-Muslims in Malaysia to be even more uncomfortable with Islam, although like PERKASA and ISMA, they are largely also disliked.

There’s also a huge number of younger generation of Muslims which seem to forget that propagating religion to non-Muslims is quite disrespectful unless it is requested by the non-Muslims themselves.  I think this goes both ways really as I think it’s disrespectful to propagate your religion to others when they do not ask for it.

When I was studying in west-Malaysia, it was very common for me to hear people asking when I would embrace Islam, and although I never said it out loud, it was really uncomfortable to be asked such a question.

Nowadays, I don’t get such questions that much, but I have WhatsApp groups, Instagram friends and Facebook friends posting religious items every five second, I just had to un-follow them and risk losing their friendship because regardless of which religion they come from, it is really annoying especially when you know some of these people are not practicing what they share or preach.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I find it also offensive when people start quoting their religious book, be it the Bible or the Quran when they know that there is a sizeable number of different faiths in the crowd they are addressing.

What has happened to me, seems to continue in a more younger age nowadays with kids as young as sixteen telling me how they are asked similar questions with some ‘going the extra mile’ by being biased when comparing religions based on ‘facts’ given by their elders, or perhaps obtained from the internet.  I can’t say where these things are happening, but it just makes me wonder how and why these young kids, as young as sixteen or maybe younger, are already starting to propagate their religion to the rest.

Just to share even more, the Muslim friends whom I respect A LOT, have never ever propagated their religion to me, but we share and exchange insights of what we practice every now and then when one does ask.  An example would be when I asked a Muslim friend not too long ago between ‘the sin of consuming alcohol and eating pork according to his faith’, in which he clearly explained, minus any of those Quran citations.

These friends of mine have also never asked me to convert to Islam, nor have I asked them to join my church.  They have also refrained from sharing religious info graphics or post, but as I observe remain steadfast at their religion. I respect them for doing that because it is my belief that if ones religion is really great, you do not have to propagate it, but rather live your life in accordance to the religion, and people will follow.

Well, I think that’s all I have to say about this topic. I’ve kept this for years, and today, I just figured it was something I should talk about.

I believe I did not in any way harm, hurt or belittle anybody’s religion, nor did I write anything which would earn me hate mail or jail term.  Nonetheless, if you feel there is any part of this article which you feel is too sensitive, let me know, then perhaps, I’ll take it down.

Here’s a fair warning, comments made using fake names with intention to do personal attacks will be deleted and removed.

Just had to add this. I once attended a course in which we were allowed to ask anything, including religious questions about the country. I was young, and thought I could get a straight answer so my question was “Why must we have a law which forces one to embrace Islam just because he wants to marry the girl/man he loves” The answer I got, with a smile from the so called ‘Tuan’ was “Kalau tak mahu masuk, jangan-lah kahwin”. pffft.

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