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JHEOA denies conversion activities

Orang Asli hospital signboard

Orang Asli hospital signboard (Pic courtesy of theSun)

PETALING JAYA, 9 June 2010: The Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli (JHEOA) has denied allegations that a hospital in Gombak has been involved in the conversion of Orang Asli to Islam.

“The Gombak JHEOA hospital functions as a medical and health centre for the Orang Asli community. Allegations that the hospital was a centre to systematically convert Orang Asli to Islam are entirely untrue,” JHEOA’s public relations unit said in a press statement e-mailed to The Nut Graph.

The department, which falls under the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, stressed that conversion activities by hospital staff were “personal actions”.

“[These actions] cannot be linked with JHEOA involvement,” the 20 May 2010 statement said.

“Furthermore, it also does not contradict Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, which states that Islam is the official religion of the federation.”

JHEOA also stressed that if Orang Asli were being converted to Islam against their will, this was against Islamic teachings. “As stated in the al-Quran in al-Baqarah 2:256, ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’”

The Gombak Hospital for Orang Asli is run by the JHEOA.

Office hours

When asked to comment, Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) coordinator Dr Colin Nicholas said the Gombak hospital staff’s conversion activities could not be classified as “private”.

“How can such activities be called private if it is held during working hours and requires staff to be present? Surely that goes against any government department’s regulations,” Nicholas said in a phone interview.

Nicholas added that Islam was not the religion of the Orang Asli, and the constitution does not allow anyone the right to impose Islam on them.

Several Orang Asli had earlier claimed that hospital staff converted them to Islam against their will. COAC and other researchers have also documented instances where the JHEOA was involved in supporting conversion activities.


The Orang Asli who spoke to The Nut Graph claimed there were cash incentives for those who converted and those who brought in new converts.

The Nut Graph then approached the JHEOA on 27 Apr 2010 to get its side of the story. However, we were told that director-general Datuk Sani Mistam was uncontactable as he was on a course from 26 April to 17 May 2010 and on holiday thereafter.

The JHEOA finally responded to The Nut Graph after more than three weeks. Even then, their press statement did not reach The Nut Graph until 2 June.

Mais: Conversion procedures

When interviewed on the Orang Asli’s allegations of being converted against their will, Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) assistant secretary Suhaimi Ismail was doubtful.

“It is impossible for converts to be registered without filling up or signing any documents,” said Suhaimi. “In Mais, the convert has to sign or thumb print the registration form in the presence of an official.”

Suhaimi denied the possibility that registration forms could be obtained and signed on someone’s behalf without their knowledge.

“We do not issue these forms loosely,” he said. “It is a restricted form, with a serial number and photocopies will not be accepted.

“If [Orang Asli] are being registered as converts without their knowledge, I do not know what forms are being used. For Mais, we control who is able to have access to these forms.”

Suhaimi said registrations were also conducted at the various district offices. “What occurs outside Mais’s office is outside my scope of knowledge. For Mais, we follow our procedures and all officials are trained to conduct conversion activities according to a prescribed manual.”

When asked about financial incentives for converts, Suhaimi said, “We do provide assistance, but not monetarily. We provide items such as prayer mats and cloth for women to use for praying.”

Suhaimi also said no financial incentives were given by the Selangor religious council to those who brought in new converts.

Mais office in Shah Alam

True converts

Suhaimi said a thorough explanation of Islamic principles and a Muslim’s responsibilities was given to all potential converts before they were led to recite the syahadah. “We also explain the converts’ responsibilities to continue caring for their non-Muslim family to avoid any misconception that when a person converts, it separates them from their family.”

Suhaimi explained that non-Muslims who wished to convert to Islam should understand the basics before they enter the religion. “It would be sad if converts entered Islam without understanding its principles or because they were forced to do so. This we must try to avoid,” he said when met at the Mais office in Shah Alam on 26 May.

Suhaimi stressed the importance of there being no element of compulsion for anyone who wanted to enter Islam. “We wouldn’t want anyone to be forced to convert and then be a bad testament to us,” he said.

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23 Responses to “JHEOA denies conversion activities”

  1. U-Jean says:

    What can be done next? Can the JHEOA be penalized? Can the conversion be undo-ed?

  2. Bohong Lagi ? says:

    And what is this supposed to mean ?

    “Furthermore, it also does not contradict Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, which states that Islam is the official religion of the federation.”

    Deny all you want !! The Orang Asli know the truth, and so does the rakyat !!


  3. Shamsul Batu Bara says:

    Forced conversion of Orang Asli to Islam? Don’t be ridiculous. They are a very intelligent group of people. My friend and I have tried a number of simple techniques to convert them to Islam but [we were] not very successful.

    In one case, we tried telling them that eating monkeys is haram. Chicken is halal. They nonchalantly replied, monkeys are cleaner than chicken because monkeys take young tree shoots and fruits, whereas chicken “makan tahi!”

    So, talking about forced conversions, the Orang Asli will not be easily taken in.

    Besides, the Muslims da’wah movement is well below par compared to the activities of another Malaysian-based religion. This particular religion has their people planted in Orang Asli settlements for years in order to convert them to their religion.

    How come there are no complaints?

    • Ding Jo-Ann says:

      @Shamsul Batu Bara

      The issue here is not whether there are conversion activities amongst the Orang Asli per se. The issue is whether state resources and taxpayers’ money should be utilised in such conversion activities. Further, there are allegations from the Orang Asli that they have been pressured or tricked by JHEOA officials to convert to Islam.

      There is also the separate issue of whether a person who has converted to Islam can leave the religion if they choose to do so. This makes the issue of forced conversions even thornier because of the legal and social ramifications involved for those who may have been converted against their will.

    • The issue is forced conversion, not conversion per se. I wouldn’t have any issue if the people converted willingly, which is the situation you are mentioning here. And as Ding Jo-Ann says, it affects legal matters. One of the biggest things forced or unwitting conversions to Islam will have an effect on will be inheritance of property after the person dies.

  4. Shamsul Batu Bara says:

    There are a number of Orang Asli settlements along the Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands) – Tapah road.

    One day, the police decided to set up a road block near an Orang Asli kampung to check on motorists and motor cyclists who commit traffic offences.

    An Orang Asli motor cyclist, with a friend riding pillion [came upon] the policemen manning the road block. His bike was without road tax and he has no licence. Unfortunately, he had no time to make a U-turn.

    Like I said earlier, Orang Asli are smart and intelligent people. They wouldn’t do stupid things like what Mat Rempits do.

    This particularly Orang Asli rode his bike cooly, went close to the waving policemen and politely told them, “Maaf dato’, tak muat lagi … ” (Sorry Mr. Policemen, there’s not enough space for a third rider on my motor bike …) and rode off right under the policemen’s nose.

    The policemen were completely baffled and were momentarily [too] stunned [to act]. By that time the smart Orang Asli were already a few metres down the road and away from the police road block.

    So, you see, if Orang Asli can even hoodwink policemen right under their noses, [would they be] that stupid as to allow themselves to be forcefully converted to Islam? No way!!

    • Ding Jo-Ann says:

      @Shamsul Batu Bara

      So are you saying that the Orang Asli who said they were converted against their will are lying?

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        Why are you even entertaining this fellow? […]

      • Sabahan says:

        Dear Ding,

        Everybody knows the government has been trying very hard converting Orang Asli and other natives in Sabah/Sarawak using our hard-earned tax and land for many many years. The more the merrier bah. I don’t even think you need to entertain this “Samsu Flaming Stone”. Great article!

        As they say, “Don’t argue with idiots, because they bring you down to their level and BEAT YOU with experience!”

    • SK says:

      Haha…it’s not the Orang Asli [who is] smart [enough] to [trick] the police. It’s the police who is dumb. Surely the Orang Asli knows, a police [officer] simply waving to stop with out a proper police barrier is to ask for […] – you know what!!! And for you info, if you go to the real Orang Asli kampung, they will tell you how they are being converted. Go to the kampung and find out and write again in this forum.

  5. Atheist says:

    Muslims are allowed to lie especially during [times of war]. […].

    From Wikipedia : The taqiyya doctrine is based on this sura from Qur’an 3:28: “Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers. If any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah; except by way of precaution, that ye may guard yourselves from them.” Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir explained that “believers that fear for their safety from the unbelievers… are allowed to show friendship to the unbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly.”

    And here’s another way of looking at it :

    Lying and cheating in the Arab world is not really a moral matter but a method of safeguarding honor and status, avoiding shame, and at all times exploiting possibilities, for those with the wits for it, deftly and expeditiously to convert shame into honor on their own account and vice-versa for their opponents. If honor so demands, lies and cheating may become absolute imperatives.” [David Pryce-Jones, “The Closed Circle” An interpretation of the Arabs, p4]

    • To be honest, this kind of Islamophobic spewing doesn’t help much. Not that dishonesty and lying isn’t present (and no religion has an exclusive hold on that) but it’s quite another thing to say that every single mentionable dishonesty is linked to Taqiyya.

      • sarawakian says:

        Kate, nothing Islamaphobic about what Atheist quoted straight from the Al-Quran. Taken straight from the Quran’s text; Surah 3:28 for everyone to read & comprehend the meaning.

  6. No complaints says:

    @Shamsul Batu Bara

    Maybe there are no complaints because there were no forced conversions and government facilities such has hospitals were not being used for conversion activities.

  7. Thinesh says:

    I think both Shamsul and Jo-Ann have a point. Clearly there is a systematic attempt to convert the Orang Asli to Islam, and it does not have to be forced to be illegal and wrong (it is clear from many of the accounts in The Nut Graph that many of them had given UNINFORMED CONSENT to be converted. Meaning they did not know entirely what they were doing, which has happened to many people, even non-Orang Asli.

    But it is also true that Islamic missionary activities are not the only threat to the Orang Asli. Their culture is also being eroded by Christian missionaries intent on seeing them as fodder for either Satan or God, and who are also guilty of trampling on Orang Asli rights, in the name of helping them. Let us defend the right of the Orang Asli to choose their own religion free of pressure from anyone, and to be helped without dubious motives.

  8. Rabid says:

    “What occurs outside Mais’ office is outside my scope of knowledge.”

    Enough said.

  9. OA says:

    Orang Asli … […] … this is crap. You talking about a single conversion and yet you want everyone to know that you have nothing better to do.

  10. R.K.Dentan says:

    This is just the latest incident in a long history of missionizing by the JHEOA, not just a “single conversion.” For a while the JHEOA’s action plan in English omitted but in [Bahasa] Malay[sia] included an account of missionizing activities. For more details and documentation, please see, e.g., Nobuta Toshihiro’s recent book “Living on the Periphery” or my own more archaic 2003 article “Ideas Redeem but Political Memories Do Run Short: Islamicization in Malaysia.” Social Justice: Anthropology, Peace and Human Rights 3(3-4)[1903]: 153-189.

  11. Shamsul Batu Bara says:

    I stressed again, there’s no such thing as forced conversion of the Orang Asli to Islam.

    Converting them i.e the Orang Asli to Islam, forced or otherwise is not as easy as a lot of people are thinking out there.

    There’re a lot of reasons for this sort of situation. Although the e Muslim Malays and Orang Asli have been for most of the time neighbours, the Malays in reality have failed to “da’wah” them.

    Only in the late eighties has the da’wah effort been stepped up. But this is hampered by efforts of another Malaysian religion which have taken root very much earlier.

    One of their techniques was the use of preachers from Tapanuli (the Batak tribe) in Indonesia, who live among the Orang Asli.

    The Muslim Malays knew this a long time ago. So did the JHEOA. But when the Malays began to make an effort to woo the Orang Asli to Islam, suddenly a lot of complaints began to surface.

    What a farce!!!

    • Sabahan says:

      The other religion I assume, is Christianity. Let me tell something about the so-called missionaries in Sabah, the pastor, Fathers and the nuns. These so called missionaries walk miles into rural villages, staying there without modern amenities, preaching God’s words armed only with Bibles and faith. The chapel and so-called church in rural areas looks more like a hut built by the villagers. They spent time teaching children English and other subjects and most importantly, they teach you to BE A GOOD PERSON. If the people accept God’s word, they are happy but if they don’t, they would still be happy as they are doing God’s work. This is what touched the villagers.

      Did they pay the villagers a single cent or proclaimed that this land would be yours if you convert or went thumping the chest that the only way to Heaven is to join “the true Malaysian” religion? You can only convert people when you walk the talk. Mostly the “the true Malaysian” religion only goes to villages to build a nice “prayer” hall and offer money if they covert; […]. After conversion, these people are nowhere to be seen. […] Plus, the nice “prayer” hall will fall to disuse […].

      When any of the villagers want to opt out of Christianity, the most common advice by the Christian [missionaries] is “You could be anything but remember, just be a good person. God bless”.

  12. Shamsul Batu Bara says:

    Another of my experience in doing da’wah work among the Orang Asli. Basically, the approach is to use simple language in communicating with them.

    One day, my friend and I dropped by an Orang Asli kampung house and chit-chatted with a group of them, young and old. I knew, some of the Orang Asli have converted to Islam but this particular group that we were chatting with were still non-Muslims.

    Once they were comfortable with our presence, casually I asked them why were they still hesitant to adopt Islam.

    Almost all of them said this in a chorus, “Buat apa kami masuk Islam, dia orang (meaning the Muslim Malays) curi rambutan kami. Kami yang tak masuk Islam pun tak curi rambutan de-me (meaning “they”)”

    See, the Orang Asli are much, much smarter than what you all out there are thinking. The soft approach failed, what more if they are forced to convert to Islam … no way.

  13. Shamsul Batu Bara says:

    On to the subject of Taqiyya. What is the big deal? The small group of early Muslims were constantly harassed by the pagan (mushrikin) Meccans. Some were killed.

    The case of Bilal, a black slave, was a good example. Upon discovering that Bilal had converted to Islam, his master tied his hands and dragged him on the hot desert sand and place huge rocks on his chest to force him out of Islam. But Bilal remained steadfast.

    Upon discovering the incidence, companion Abu Bakr bought him from his torturing master in order to save him.

    Under certain circumstances, Islam allows those who couldn’t stand the physical abuse to “bluff” the enemy and say outwardly that he was not a Muslim, although spiritually he remained a Muslim, in order to save their lives.

    This is taqiyya. So what is the issue?

  14. Shamsul Batu Bara says:

    To R.K. Dentan.

    Why don’t you do your own research to find out the true situation about the missionary work being carried out among the Orang Asli community. They are supported financially from outside Malaysia and have the capacity to carry out their missionary for years and years. Hundreds of their preachers have penetrated the Orang Asli community, living among them, even adopting their lifestyle.

    The Muslim da’wah effort is world apart compared to what the missionaries have done. And yet they keep complaining!!

    Reading books written by foreigners with squint eyes doesn’t reflect the real situation.

    Come down on earth!!

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