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JHEOA involved in Orang Asli conversion

Colin Nicholas

PETALING JAYA, 4 May 2010: The Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli (JHEOA) has been involved in the Islamisation of Orang Asli for decades, said Centre for Orang Asli Concerns coordinator Dr Colin Nicholas.

“One of JHEOA‘s main objective is to convert Orang Asli to Islam. They don’t say it openly but their budget allocations and programmes lead to that.

“Their ultimate aim is to assimilate the Orang Asli into the Malay [Malaysian] section of society, although officially they say the goal is to integrate the Orang Asli into mainstream society,” Nicholas told The Nut Graph in an interview.

Nicholas added that although JHEOA categorically denies involvement in conversion activities, they provide logistical support and other encouragement to missionary organisations to gain access to the Orang Asli. These groups include university students from Islamic faculties.

In the 1990s

book cover
Book cover for Living on the Periphery

Anthropologist Nobuta Toshihiro, who conducted fieldwork in an Orang Asli village in Malaysia in the late 1990s, said there was a clear JHEOA policy to Islamise the Orang Asli.

“…former JHEOA director-general Jimin bin Idris stated in 1990 that he hoped the Orang Asli would become fully integrated into Malaysian society, preferably as an Islamised subgroup of the Malay [Malaysian],” said Toshihiro in his book Living on the Periphery: Development and Islamization of the Orang Asli.

Toshihiro added that the Religious Affairs Department and the JHEOA appointed and trained 250 Muslim missionaries known as “penggerak masyarakat” in 1991. It was also announced that a balai raya would be built in Orang Asli villages, which would include a surau.

JHEOA pressure

JHEOA’s officially stated primary aim is to promote the progress, well-being and advancement of the Orang Asli community while preserving their identity and culture.

However, Nicholas told The Nut Graph that development aid was used as an incentive for Orang Asli to convert to Islam.

He said the JHEOA has been accused of showing favouritism towards Orang Asli who converted.

“There are reports of Muslim Orang Asli [getting priority in] receiving aid and houses. There was also an Orang Asli church that was deprived of basic facilities like water and electricity, to the extent that the Orang Asli had to go to court over it.”

Nicholas said while there were some Orang Asli who converted because of a genuine attraction to Islam, these were few. “Some convert because of pressure and some by trickery, without knowing they’ve been converted,” Nicholas said.

(Pic by Ijansempoi / Dreamstime)
The Nut Graph had earlier reported of Orang Asli who had been converted to Islam against their will. They claimed to have been given or promised financial incentives as a result of their conversion.

In his book, Toshihiro noted that a suspicion towards conversion activities has developed amongst Orang Asli. “Resistance to Islamisation is not, in fact, resistance to Islam itself, but to being forced to convert to Islam,” he stated. “It must be unbearable to be told by others how to live, no matter how politically and economically justified it may be.”

Toshihiro observed that although Orang Asli were seen as poor, and in need of development projects and Islamisation to deal with their perceived poverty, their lives had in fact, been quite comfortable.

As Ukal, an Orang Asli man quoted in Toshihiro’s book stated, “Dulu susah tapi senang; sekarang senang tapi susah.”

Shut down JHEOA

Nicholas said that JHEOA should have been abolished a long time ago.

“They don’t have the right motivation nor the competence needed to fulfil their responsibility towards the Orang Asli,” he explained.

Orang Asli in Kampung Rembai, Selangor (Pic by Adzla @ Flickr)


“They might as well be closed down and the work given to another competent agency. The positive effect of [doing this can be] seen when education and most of the health responsibilities of the Orang Asli were handed over to the respective ministries in the mid-1990s.”

Nicholas said what was more damaging was how the JHEOA is used to control the Orang Asli.

For example, he said that JHEOA has purported to speak on behalf of the Orang Asli, without proper consultation with them.

“When it comes to issues like Orang Asli land being taken away, JHEOA always sides with the government. It sees itself more as a government agency, rather than one that is compelled by law to protect and advance the interests of the Orang Asli,” he said.

official picture
Mohd Sani
The Nut Graph contacted JHEOA director-general Datuk Mohd Sani Mistam’s office for a response to the allegations of conversion activities by JHEOA staff.

However, The Nut Graph was informed that he was attending a Kursus Kempimpinan Pengurusan Utama from 26 April to 17 May. The Nut Graph is awaiting a response to a request for deputy director-general Nisra Nisran Asra Ramlan to respond on the director-general’s behalf. Favicon

See also:

Orang Asli converted against will
Orang Asli Hospital not fulfilling role 
Outspoken doctor persistently “sidelined”

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19 Responses to “JHEOA involved in Orang Asli conversion”

  1. Right2Choose says:

    If Islam (in Malaysia) allowed its adherents to convert out (as easily) as to convert to Islam, that there should be no problem. Malaysia should change it’s laws to uphold international laws (to which it is a signatory). I am referring to the (total) freedom of religion.

  2. Farouq Omaro says:

    This will have consequences like the mass Islamization in Sabah between 1969-1976 and 1980-1985 where some of the children of those converts to Islam are now trapped in a religion which they do not feel part of. As a result we see Christians in Sabah who have the word “Islam” on their ICs and complications arising from marriages to people who are supposedly Muslims such as issuance of birth certificates where one parent is “officially” Muslim.


    It’s so shameful to propagate one’s religion using dirty tactics and intimidation. These idiots just don’t realise in the end they only get shame to their names.

  4. thokiat says:

    Orang Asli yang tanpa diragui pribumi di Malaysia telah dirompak hak mereka seperti yang termaktub di dalam Perlembagaan.

  5. jusoh says:

    This is the trouble with people who are just superficial Muslims, not understanding the truth of their religion and equating numbers of converts with holiness.

    This comes about because there is no freedom to choose one’s religion amongst Muslims. So once “locked” in, there is no way out. Sad way of bringing people to Allah.

  6. YJ says:

    D irty tactic, this is not the Islamic way of thinking. It’s assimilation!

  7. jani jalikin says:

    Well, that is the function of all types of missionaries. Christian, Muslim or others will do the same. For this case the Muslim missionary has the advantage because most of the JHEOA staff are Muslim. If it so happens the JHEOA staff are of other religions, the same thing would happen. Colin Nicholas, don’t you think so? It is happening round the world. Christian missionaries will do the same to [indigenous people] in other countries and also to the poor people of a war-torn country. The best part is the war was created by the country where the Christian missionary came from, thus confusing the people. This is even worst, stealing people’s happiness. It totally against [being normal].

  8. rahim says:

    Using public money to propagate Islam is inappropriate…

  9. statistics says:

    Surprising, these are just quotes and words, no statistics at all, there’s no percentages at all. We don’t even know how many of them were converted. I strongly believe this article by Ding Jo-Ann is merely to serve the number of articles she can submit to her editor rather than to come out with a quality article with statistical values to support her crap argument.

  10. no says:

    Without numbers or statistics, a single conversion can turn into a MASS racial/ religious RIOT. We believe, this is what the author of this article propagates. Sub-consciously, she is promoting religious riots to happen in Malaysia.

  11. shaz says:

    Adalah tidak benar dakwaan pengislaman Orang Asli adalah merupakan satu agenda tersembunyi. Namun, saya tidak menolak kerakusan (wang) dan ketaksuban (agama) segelintir anggota JHEOA yang menyebabkan timbulnya isu ini. JHEOA wajib ambil tindakan ke atas anggota berkenaan kerana telah memalukan jabatan dan agama.

  12. urang sarawak says:

    I wonder, dulu pernah juga dengar konspirasi para ”ustaz” mengatakan pihak Kristian menggunakan duit untuk convert-kan orang. Nah, sekarang terbukti, siapa yang melakukan perbuatan terkutuk ni, dulu, para ”ustaz” ini bukan main lagi menyakitkan hati orang-orang seperti saya dengan ”mendedahkan” perbuatan kristian konon, macam kes paderi palsu Thomas […] tu…

    Nak cakap satu benda jer la, gereja-gereja Kristian bukannya ada banyak duit sangat untuk menderma duit kepada orang-orang yang convert. 100% perbelanjaan gereja hasil daripada derma para umat gereja. Kalau pun ada charity works dari gereja, segala perbelanjaan DENGAN SUKA RELA diderma oleh PARA UMAT GEREJA juga.

  13. nothing says:

    Nothing to back this claim, no statistics, no numbers, no sworn oaths, just crap talk. Another cheap propaganda from The Nut Graph.. to make a fuss out of nothing.

  14. Farouq Omaro says:

    Agree with Urang Sarawak, Christian missionaries are demonised by saying that they use holy water to charm Muslims, give away money, and all that silly stuff. The truth is that the Christian missionaries have no way of reaching Muslims, and most churches would turn away potential Muslim converts due to fear. Even during colonial times, many Muslims studied in Christian schools yet their faith in Islam was never challenged by the missionary teachers!

  15. unclear on the concept says:

    Statistics, no and Nothing are unclear on the concept. Even if NOBODY was converted, it is wrong for JHEOA to use their resources for such activities. It is clear that people like “no” are the ones who will spark riots since that’s all they can think of when they read this article even though nothing was even vaguely implied.

    Another clear attempt by people like Statistics, no and Nothing to sabotage proper discussion with their crap arguments and cheap propaganda.

  16. Nicholas Aw says:

    In this beautiful country called Malaysia, it is a foregone fact that only the religion of Islam is allowed to be propagated to the Orang Asli. JHEOA and other agencies such as the Special Branch monitor closely the movement of other religious missionaries in Orang Asli settlements.

    There were cases when Christian missionaries entered Orang Asli settlements and were quickly subjected to harassment from the authorities.

    It is unnecessary to ask the authorities for confirmation as they would vehemently deny and say, “There is no truth in this. It’s rubbish!”

    I have made a comparative study of the religions of the world, and the faithful of the various religions are free to seek the truth and are allowed to leave their faith in search of God. Abandoning the faith does not incur the wrath of any human authority. If it is wrong, then it is between the Creator and the individual. All religions practise this except Islam [in Malaysia], where denouncing the religion is considered apostasy.

  17. ficklefellow says:

    Thanks TNG & Ms Ding for your continuous “minority reports” – as I like to call them. These are unheard of by many; “sensitive” (as some would brand it), and apparently unpopular enough to prompt knee-jerk dismissals from certain “statistically-challenged” individuals.

    This revelation is crucial for the majority of the M’sian public who (I’d like to believe) would support “the advancement of the Orang Asli community while preserving their identity and culture” in the truest sense.

    May this be another step forward towards putting an end to the manipulation and exploitation of our often ignored Malaysian brothers and sisters – the true blue “sons [and daughters] of the earth”.

  18. many says:

    Just wonder, how many Orang Asli are actually in Malaysia?

  19. bah gantex says:

    JHEOA, we as OA tribe well know your tactic to convert OA to [Islam]. Come and ask personally all OA around Malaysia how many OA persons have registered as ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ in thier IC, but they still believe in animism. Why not register their IC ‘anak kepada’? […] So what to believe now?

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