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The perils of being Muslim in Malaysia

MUSLIMS constitute the majority of the Malaysian population and the country’s top leadership. Still, just how safe is it to be a Muslim in Malaysia? And can Muslims trust that their rights will be protected and upheld by a public administration that increasingly says it wants to uphold Islamic values and teachings?

The evidence is, it really doesn’t pay to be Muslim in Malaysia, not if the actions by state administrations are anything to go by. Worse, it’s not just state administrations – whether led by Umno or PAS –  that make life unduly difficult for Muslims. Other Muslims, who take their cue from what the state allows them to get away with, also make being a Muslim in Malaysia a challenge.

No thinking

How do we know this? Well, if you’re Muslim, you’re apparently not allowed to read widely, think and form your own opinions about how to live your faith. You’re not allowed, for example, to read Irshad Manji’s book, which was banned after it was translated into Malay.

And if you happen to be the publisher of the translated version and you’re Muslim, then you can expect religious authorities to raid your office and arrest you, even though there’s doubt about the constitutionality of these actions. And even if you’re not an employee of the publisher, and just so happen to be a Muslim sharing the same office space, the religious authorities can still call you in for questioning.

This is exactly what happened to the Muslims who co-rented ZI Publications’s office even though they had nothing to do with Manji’s translated book and informed the authorities so. Not only that, these Muslims were also compelled to go for Islamic counselling. Why? Because the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) decided it was empowered to treat all Muslims at the ZI Publications office as wayward Muslims who needed to be reformed or punished.

And in a disconcerting case of the religious authority’s abuse of power, if you’re Muslim like Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz, the Federal Territories’s Islamic Department (Jawi) can arrest and prosecute you for selling a book, that had not yet been banned, at your place of employment. Nik Raina has said this is the “most challenging time” of her life. That’s understandable. She had not broken any laws and was merely performing work she was hired for. Yet, because she’s Muslim, the authorities can arrest her, treat her roughly, deny her legal representation, and then have her charged in the syariah court.

Indeed, Nik Raina’s employer, the book chain Borders, has stated that if this is the way Muslims are going to be treated, companies may start reconsidering the hiring of Muslims. So, as a Muslim in Malaysia, your chances of private sector employment may also be threatened by state religious authorities’ actions.

Thinking among Muslims is especially frowned upon if it’s about Muslim women’s rights. That can be the only explanation why Sisters In Islam’s book, Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism, was banned four years ago. And even when the High Court rules the Home Ministry’s ban as unlawful, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional administration has no qualms appealing the decision. That speaks volumes, doesn’t it, about how the state thinks Muslims should be treated?

For certain, these two books are not the only ones that have been banned. There have been others, such as Kassim Ahmad’s book on the hadith, which Jakim has now been told to review. And John Esposito and Karen Armstrong’s books about Islam.  And there will likely be many more banned books for Muslims, and by extension non-Muslims, in Malaysia.

No dissent

If you’re Muslim in Malaysia, you will also not be allowed to show dissent against those in power, at least according to the National Fatwa Council. The council issued a fatwa that declared it haram to participate in gatherings that were unproductive, illegal or could cause chaos, citing Bersih 3.0. This is despite the fact that the right to peaceful expression and assembly is a guaranteed civil liberty under both the United Nations and our federal constitution.

It’s tough being a Muslim in Malaysia because the fact is, going against a gazetted fatwa is a criminal offence even though a fatwa is merely an opinion in Islamic tradition. What that means for Muslims in Malaysia is, if you exercised your democratic right to assemble and protest peacefully, the religious authorities can come after you.

And lest we think it’s just an Umno-led government that is responsible for denying Muslims the right to dissent, PAS is not very different. The PAS-led Kedah government, for example, passed an enactment that said no fatwa in the state could be challenged, despite such a move being unconstitutional and ultra vires of its powers.

No compassion

Most troubling of all, if you’re Muslim in Malaysia, don’t expect any compassion. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself has purportedly announced that his administration will protect the sanctity of Islam. How? By singling out lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs) as threatening faith and morality in Malaysia.

As if the prosecution of this minority group isn’t already violent enough, Muslim LGBTs can now expect continued or further persecution and victimisation for merely being who and what they are. Imagine if women were still being victimised and villified by the state merely for being different from men, or blacks for being different from whites. And yet the principle involved in the victimisation of LGBTs is the same. And it’s being done in the name of Islam. So, if you’re Muslim and a member of the LGBT community, watch out.

The administration is also not averse to disadvantaging innocent Muslim children. Muslims who are born less than six months after their parents’ marriage are not allowed to carry their father’s name, making them illegitimate and denying them their rights. All this because of a 1971 fatwa. Better it would seem to be born a non-Muslim in Malaysia.

No personal liberties

And if you’re Muslim in Malaysia, you can forget about your personal liberties of enjoying a concert, doing yoga or poco-poco as exercise, or shaving your head. And if you drink alcohol, even if your drinking harms only your own liver, you can be whipped. If you’re dating, your room can be raided and you can be arrested and charged for khalwat even if you’re a consenting adult. And oh, unlike other Malaysians, you will not be allowed to choose your faith because in Malaysia being a Muslim is like being in Hotel California. And of course, there’s ever the threat of hudud.

For certain, it’s not Islam that is the problem. A look at the life of Sophia Loren will demonstrate what a Catholic state is equally capable of. Indeed, any religion, when practised conservatively and when allowed to inform and direct public policy and governance, is problematic. Theocracies are essentially undemocratic because divine law and/or God cannot be challenged. In Malaysia, even if we are constitutionally a secular state, great strides are being made to make us into an Islamic state.

If you don’t believe me, just ask the Muslims who are being unjustly persecuted and punished by the state just because in this country, the state can.

Editor’s note: ZI Publications is the publisher of The Nut Graph’s books, Found in Malaysia and Found in Malaysia Volume 2. ZI Publications also published The Nut Graph’s Understanding the Dewan Rakyat.

At one point in her life, Jacqueline Ann Surin considered embracing Islam and was exhorted by her Malaysian Muslim friends not to. She is alarmed at the targeted persecution of Muslims in Malaysia by the state and its agencies in the name of Islam.

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119 Responses to “The perils of being Muslim in Malaysia”

  1. Exiled_Gundam says:

    “And if you drink alcohol, even if your drinking harms only your own liver, you can be whipped. If you’re dating, your room can be raided and you can be arrested and charged for khalwat even if you’re a consenting adult.”
    These two [actions] are already haram to begin with, even if the former only hurts the person, and the latter even if consenting.

    As for LGBT stuff, if it is only at a psychological level it is ok actually, but once it becomes physical (dating or even marrying same gender, cross-dressing,gender change operation etc) then it is forbidden.

    I guess two of the above are what non-Muslims keep failing to understand after all these years.

    • Yeo Kien Kiong says:

      May I know what is your definition of “haram” and “halal” and how can they be applied for progression of humans rights in Malaysia, our neighbours as well as the rest of the world?


      • Emma says:

        Dear Yeo,

        What Exiled_Gundam is saying is that whatever is laid as haram in the Quran is sinful and forbidden. The Quran is not man-made. It’s the word of God. Therefore, we Muslims do not challenge this. Khalwat and drinking alcohol is laid in the Al-Quran as sinful. Full stop.

        However, joining a peaceful gathering like Bersih 3.0 is never a sin in Islam. It is not stated in the Quran as sinful. In fact there were a lot of gatherings during Prophet Muhammad’s era and Khulafa Ar-Rasyidin. So rest assured that Islam is a very democratic religion actually.

        It is so shameful that both BN and the Opposition fail to position Islam properly and put a good image to it, hence creating a lot of confusion.

        • Karim Cheng says:

          Malaysia is not a Muslim country; it practices Islam in the same way the Protestants do in Britain where the queen is the head of the church.

          Islam comes under the purview of the state, therefore the law is the interpretation of it by the state Islamic authorities and so it differs from state to state. Dissent, though ‘legal’ is not allowed if it is against the ‘School’ or ‘mazhab’ of the authorities. It is similar to the selection of the gospels within the New Testament of the Christians and those excluded by the Roman Catholic Church.
          In an age when large numbers of people from other religions revert to Islam annually, especially in America and Europe, here in Malaysia we have the opposite. Why? People who reverted to Islam discover the beauty of the Message brought by Muhammad (peace be upon him) 15 centuries ago from the translations of the Qur’an and the Seerah (story of the life of the Prophet of Islam) whereas those born within the folds of Islam read the Qur’an but know not what they read. Very few know about the life of the Prophet, himself. The majority of these born-Muslims listened and follow the teachings taught by scholars licensed by the state Islamic authorities in mosques, using textbooks allowed by the same authorities.

          Islam in Malaysia will never be able to solve the problems of the ‘ummah’ (nation) even if Hudud is implemented because of the differences of Schools of Thought (Mazhab) and the refusal to abide by the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Muhammad for its interpretation.

          In my humble opinion, Malaysia should remain secular and the Muslims be allowed to practise Islam according to their knowledge of it and their preferences; the sham should not be uphold. Wallahu a’lam (Allah knows best).

          • Sheema says:

            Karim, thank you so much for saying what needed to be said. Peace be with you.

          • Bamboo says:

            Karim, you are spot on. A Muslim friend told me she has started to learn Arabic to understand the Quran better. I asked her don’t most, if not all Malays, go for ‘mengaji Quran’ classes. She told me they can only recite but don’t understand the meaning of the Quran. Thus her quest to learn Arabic. Is this why Malays are cowed by ulama who are not fully well-versed in the Quran themselves?

    • Arif says:

      Has anyone even thought to QUESTION the notion of these rules – or are you all just blindly following this simply because some person in a white skullcap who can recite the verses of the Quran backwards and forwards tells you to?

      Has anyone even thought to look deeper into the underlying meanings of such baseless rules and maybe – just MAYBE – realize that it may have been the fabrication of a suppressive and misogynistic regime bent on nothing but ensuring their own dynastic succession?

      And has anyone even thought that maybe God wanted us to think for ourselves and question the validity and humanity of having such laws in the first place – and whether now in the 21st century, these rules are still relevant. After all, the Quran did allow for SLAVES, did it not? Are we then sinning because we don’t own others of our own kind? So that means we all go to hell for not owning slaves?

      So please, throw out that simplistic and in my opinion, STUPID, two-word excuses “It’s haram” or “It’s forbidden” and think a little for a change and come up with better, LOGICAL reasons. NOT excuses. God gave [us] a brain – use it!

      • Reza says:

        Well said. Problem is Muslims in Malaysia are a bunch of sheep who blindly follow the ulama, most of whom have a “sekolah pondok” education and have zero critical thinking ability. Blind leading the blind situation.

        • Aini says:

          “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say something good or keep quiet.”
          ——— Prophet Muhammad (s) as reported by Abu Huraira–mutafakkun ghalai.

          I wonder what justification is there for Reza to say “..ulama, most of whom have a “sekolah pondok” education and have zero critical thinking ability..” I wonder if Reza can name one if not a few of these “most Ulama”. I would like to see for myself what their education background is like.

          It is sad to see how people judge others so easily, which ironically (in my opinion) is the essence of this it from any angle you wish to see it.

          To all Muslims, revert to the Qur’an for the guidance and cure – ‘checking out’ is not the answer.

          To non-Muslims, give space for Muslims to practice their belief, it is best not to judge on things [which] you have little understanding.

          “People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
          … Forgive them anyway.
          If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
          … Be kind anyway.
          If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
          … Be happy anyway.
          The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
          … Do good anyway.
          Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
          … Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
          You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
          It was never between you and them anyway.”
          ——— Mother Theresa.

          • Reza says:

            Even if most of the ulama don’t actually have a “sekolah pondok” education, there is more than enough evidence to prove that they indeed have a “sekolah pondok” mentality.

            I’ll give you two examples: banning of yoga and tomboys. I’m sure many will agree that these two are among the most idiotic of fatwas ever decreed with no proper justification whatsoever. Yoga was banned, not because it had anti-Islamic elements or elements that were contrary to the teachings of Islam, but because it was feared it would lead Muslims to be curious about Hinduism and thus promote apostasy.

            Tomboys were banned because it was feared that it would promote lesbianism. Was the proper research done? Were experts such as psychologists, sociologists, etc consulted on this matter before the ulamas so confidently decreed it as fatwa? Highly doubtful. Because even a person with an introductory knowledge of psychology would inform you that tomboy-ism is just a phase for most young girls.

            These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I have neither the time nor the inclination to list all the absurd fatwas ever decreed by the dullards on the fatwa council. I might only be able to sleep tomorrow morning if I attempted this.

            Thus, my conclusion, do Malaysian Muslims want to be led astray by people who do not possess the intelligence or capability to be religious authorities? As Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars said, “Who is the bigger fool? The fool? Or the fool who follows him?”

          • Sheema says:

            People should be allowed to check out if they want to, full stop. And please stop trying to silence non-Muslims, they have a right to speak out on these issues too because it DOES affect them.

          • Aini_Abdullah says:

            Mr Reza, thank you for your reply. I’m glad to see you are now conversing intellectually that I am actually gaining some insights on the issues. There is a difference (to me) between “sekolah pondok education” and “sekolah pondok mentality” – one being literal, the other semantics. Even though I still cringe at the ‘sekolah pondok’ analogy but I appreciate the maturity and sound reasoning in your recent comment.

            Thank you again for enlightening me with those two examples given. Having left the country some years ago, I’m a little out of touch with current national issues. As someone who (now) submits to the teaching of Islam (based on the teaching of Qur’an & Sunnah), I can ‘understand’ what drove the Malaysian government/ulama to issue such fatwas. However, I have yet to find my own footing in the matter as I need to digest and research this information fully before I can share any constructive critisicm.

            Truth is, due to my Canadian husband’s recent conversion to Islam, we both decided to go back to Malaysia as he wanted to honor my wish to re-embrace my Malaysian Muslim community. You can’t imagine how horrific and sad I was, stumbling upon this article and its readers’ comments. The page screamed animosity, misinformation, exaggeration(?) and some commentators show little regard towards the true teaching of Islam and/or of other religions. ‘Muslims’ proudly denouncing their religion?? I must admit, I was not a practicing ‘Muslim’ for so many years before, but still this is a shocker to me. As I woke my husband up, I wept on his lap asking him, how am I going to go back and live there(Malaysia) now? This is not the Ummah I once knew.

            It was ironic as he comforted me, he reminded me; confusion and tribulation is often a test to one’s faith/conviction, and with it comes opportunity to do righteous deeds. I’m yet to find what is ‘righteous’ for me here, but I believe I can start with advocating the right information and sharing the knowledge of good & love. InshaAllah.

          • Kong Kek Kuat says:

            @ Aini
            @ Reza

            I prefer: ” Say to My servants that they should (only) say those things that are best; for Satan doth sow dissensions among them; for Satan is to man an avowed enemy.” (17.53)

            What Reza obviously meant by “sekolah pondok” is the mentality of those he call “ulama” (think a Malaysia with first world infrastructure and third world mentality). The problem is that you are unable to understand nuances, not with Reza´s disparaging comment.

          • Reza says:

            Dear Aini,

            Unfortunately the state of Islam in Malaysia is not much better than in most fundamentalist middle eastern countries. Even neighboring countries like Indonesia have a better understanding of Islam than we do. For liberals like myself, there is much despair. Like all religions, they become weakened and corrupted when entrusted to people who are not truly qualified to be religious authorities.

            I respect your decision to re-embrace Islam. I have never been a religious person, but my advice to you as a person who is renewing her faith in her religion is to always use your own common sense and judgment in determining what is right and wrong. Educate yourself about Islam. That way you will be able to judge for yourself if what the so called authorities are saying is true. Never ever blindly follow those who claim to be authorities and, thus, claim to know better. It is unfortunate that most Malaysian Muslims have succumbed to this. The likelihood is that you are probably more intelligent than these morons who claim authority.

          • Aini Abdullah says:

            Thank you for your advice; you took the words right out of my husband’s mouth.

            From personal experience, I think the teaching of Islamic foundation in Malaysia is mainly based on ‘things to be memorised’ and ‘rituals that must be performed’. Little reasoning and one is almost always too afraid to question anything because ‘it’s a rule’.

            For example, it’s a non-negotiable rule to memorise and recite Al-Fatihah in Arabic perfectly (which is good). I remember being sent to a Qari specialist or being drilled in school/college for it. Problem is, I don’t remember ever being sent to any specialist to learn the meaning of the words, neither the words being discussed in detail nor being quizzed in school/college. Point is, when my husband found out, he asked in disbelief “How come you say all your prayers all these years and you don’t know what are you saying?” It was embarrassing; a complete fallacy of logic but I believe this is the reality of many Malaysian Muslims?

            And as a new convert whose hunger for knowledge is driven by genuine curiosity, my husband is always asking for proof (Quranic ruling or hadiths, subject to how authentic the hadiths are) for every single ‘rule’/’ritual’ that he was asked to follow/perform. Although the process of obtaining proof was often laborious, but the result was amazing. Suddenly everything makes sense and every ritual becomes so much more meaningful. Alhamdulillah.

            Reza, I understand liberals and Islamic authorities don’t jive, but bear in mind, some laws (which are discussed by JAS here) are legit & they are paid to do their job, they must do it or be guilty by association, which is not fair for them as they will be asked for this in the Hereafter. On the other hand, I also have had first-hand experiences dealing with some authority figures that are just…ermm.. let’s just say they should enroll in some ‘ADAB’ classes themselves.

            Reza, interesting you mentioned Indonesia. I did some Googling and the results, I’m afraid, don’t support your claim very well.

          • Reza says:

            Aini, it is good that your husband questions everything that he learns about Islam. If we had more Muslims like him, not just in Malaysia but the world, Islam would be a more respected religion. You are right about Malaysian Muslims just memorising and not understanding. That is why they are easily influenced by the ulama.

            Another cause of the problem with the implementation of Islam, and this is a problem with most other religions as well, especially the Abrahamic religions, is that the adherents are told to have absolute blind faith, meaning they are not allowed to question holy scripture or authorities. Personally, I find blind faith to be extremely dangerous and, when coupled with ignorance, leads to religious zealotry and extremism. I feel that nothing should be above question, not even words and teachings that are supposedly passed down by God. Whatever is stated by holy scripture should be reflected in reality and backed up by facts and research. Otherwise, those beliefs/laws should be discarded.

            You stated that the authorities are justified in enforcing some Islamic laws. I do not know specifically which laws you are referring to, but I am against religious policing. I believe that faith is an individual and personal matter between the individual and God. No other human should forcefully interfere with another’s practice of faith. If an adherent is practicing his faith wrongly, then his faith community should advise the person accordingly, not punish/arrest him. Also, I am absolutely against the prohibition of apostasy in Islam, which is yet another law created by the ulama that is not actually stated in the Quran. The Quran states that there should be no compulsion in religion. A person should have the freedom to choose his faith; no one should be obligated to follow the faith of their parents.

            (continued in next post)

          • Adam says:

            How about when I want to convert, I can’t? What do you mean, respect their faith?

        • Reza says:

          (Continued from previous post)

          Regarding Indonesia, I never said they were perfect. Yes they also have problems in implementation but in some ways they are better than us. There is more freedom of religion there. Apostasy is not prohibited and Islam is not nearly as heavily policed/enforced as it is in Malaysia.

      • Ida Bakar says:

        Well said Arif! As befits your good name.

      • Sheema says:

        Yes brilliant response Arif, took the words right out of my mouth! And to Exiled_Gundam, just because religion says something is ‘halal’ or ‘haram’, does NOT give the state the right to legislate on these issues and impose those laws on people who may not necessarily agree with them. Also, not everyone in this country who was born Muslim necessarily WANTS to be Muslim, so imposing religious laws on such people is a violation of basic human rights.

      • NurL says:

        Well said, Arif! I think I have to move to a kafir country to be a true Muslim and not a superficial one. Here, you are judged by how you look, how you dress and even how you think. I would prefer to move to a country where faith is between me and God, and not written on my IC.

      • hafizi says:

        Actually, the Quran never allowed SLAVERY. All that was stated in the Quran about slavery was the current situation of the people during the era before Islam. Muslims in the era of Prophet Muhammad were encouraged to buy the slaves from other people and set them free.

      • S F Che Ali Ahmad says:

        Arif , you have the most logical and intelligent yet simple explanation / solution for such a long lasting controversial subject! Congratulations! Believing that Allah wants us to THINK for ourselves is the greatest way we can honor Him! Let’s use our brains- for a change!

      • Flag of truth says:

        Arif, judging from your name I assume you are a Muslim. And if you are, then you clearly do not understand the Quran. Allow me to use this opportunity to explain about how the Quran passed down to Muhammad. The verses in the Quran are passed down by stages. Yes Islam (in the Quran) did tolerate slavery but it was in the early stage of Islam where most Arabs who converted to Islam were slave owners. Allah knows that it is within the human nature to rebel when they feel that they are being forced on something. And eventually slavery is abolished in Islam not by force but by several motivational steps by Allah in order to have more pious Muslims.

        To all my fellow non muslim friends, do study the Quran and try to understand it. And remember while reading it you must understand that the Quran is a ‘document that has chronologies of events that happened at that time, and also the past”. Just to answer on mr arif’s statement about Islam allowing slavery. 🙂

    • Pancho says:

      “As for LGBT stuff, if it is only at a psychological level it is ok actually, but once it becomes physical (dating or even marrying same gender, cross-dressing,gender change operation etc) then it is forbidden.”

      You actually believe that? If there was a god, I am sure he wouldn’t be dumb enough to let you be gay in your mind but not in your actions! That’s completely hypocritical. If you are gay in your mind then you’re gay. End of story, whether you practise it or not. You are nearly there though. Just use your powers of rational thinking a little bit harder and you might be able to see the light.

  2. Jambo says:

    I am so glad I’m not Muslim…

  3. Al Tugauw says:

    There seems to be more than a bit of “pick & choose” about all these religious authorities’ actions, just rendering them inconsistent and hypocritical, possibly even political in some cases: the message to Muslims being “toe the line” and to non-Muslims “don’t mess with us” (“us” being the Malay/Muslim powers-that-be, nothing to do with ordinary Malays/Muslims).

    Why, for example, don’t they go after MAS, whose Muslim stewards/stewardesses have to serve alcohol to passengers? Is it because MAS is majority-owned and run by the UMNO/BN government?

    There are many more examples of such hypocrisy, leading one to the opinion that they are just playing politics, with ordinary Muslims becoming their unwitting & unwilling victims.

  4. Kronik says:

    LOL……all of you guys are begging for ISA….I feel sorry for smart people who are born in Malaysia.

  5. Marc says:

    In this day and age, who is to say what is forbidden and what is allowed? No one person can say what God allows and what he doesn’t allow, because in essence, no one knows. And the point is, you’re born into the religion (well, that’s the fact for most Malays in Malaysia) and it’s a Hotel California situation (as stated in the article) – almost impossible to leave. So even if one was to discover that they’re gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual and they were born into Islam, they can’t renounce their religion.

    And it’s NOT OK if it’s psychological at all. What you need to understand is the mental implications of keeping something inside and feeling that who you really are is “sinful” or “dirty” or “forbidden” lays heavy on one’s shoulders. The amount of suicides that happen because of this “you-must-oppress-it” attitude is just mind-boggling and so sad.

    This country is moving into the dark ages again and it’s just a matter of time before all it’s going to be is another Islamic-controlled country with none of the cultural diversity and richness that Malaysia is famous for.

  6. kafir says:

    Oh yes, learning English is also haram as it’s a kafir language … what about driving a Mercedes or BMW? Are they haram, too? I bet the ulama would want to own them.

  7. Malay Atheist says:

    I’d like to check out of Hotel California.

  8. Cheng Hai says:

    The problems come when the state pokes its nose into religion, which is a personal conviction. Will we see a day when all citizens must profess a religion or be prosecuted? Imagine, the poor officials at National Registration Department scratching their heads bloody when confronted with an unticked box for religion. Oops, they already solved that dilemma … by auto-ticking every applicant’s religion as Islam. Remember Christians and Sikhs who discovered they had converted when they collected their MyKad some years ago?

  9. ALVIN says:

    God created everything on planet earth including LGBTs in His wisdom. Who is MAN to challenge that? I bet God does not know about this!

  10. Ida Bakar says:

    The religious authorities in Malaysia are behaving like the Vatican in the pre-Reformation era: Micro-managing people’s lives right to the last breath; and even beyond that if we were to include the body snatchings.

    At the same time, they make strange bed-fellows with the ruling elite who are absolved from much of the gazetted sins which we lesser citizens seem to be too prone to commit.

    Perhaps, like the Catholic church then, we Muslims in Malaysia need our own Martin Luther to nail a thesis on the door of these religious authorities as to why Islam is one for personal responsibility and freedom of worship and that this ‘Vatican of Malaysia’ should reform its meddlesome ways.

    However, just like a religious cabal who needs the political class to maintain itself, and vice-versa, what we are seeing now is akin to the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition ensured that there was only one way to be a Christian – out with 700 years of relaxed Muslim Spain, no to Protestant Reformation and of course, no Jews should even be Jewish. What followed the glorious Reconquest was the loss of American colonies, endless European wars and for most of the twentieth century, Spain was the poor man of Europe.

    This ‘Malaysian Inquisition’ does not bode well for ANY Malaysian. It will make us fearful and it will stop us from thinking. It will undo all the good that we have achieved. The shout for Secular Malaysia cannot be louder than it is now.

  11. Adam says:

    Faith, by its nature, can never be forced upon a person. Once coercion is used, it becomes mere rituals and the spiritual aspect of the faith is often lost. People should believe because they themselves want to and not because they are forced to.

    Institutionalised religion is what you get when the adherents are coerced into following the religion whether they believe in it or not. Rules have to be followed or else punishment will be meted out. A wrong cannot be used to correct another so-called wrong action. This action and reaction will go round and round in circles until society breaks down.

    A case in point is apostasy. It is ok to a point when an apostate is advised against leaving the faith but when force is used to rehabilitate the person, it will go into a vicious cycle. When an apostate is thrown into jail, thereby losing his/her freedom and livelihood, you cannot expect the apostate to come back willingly to the faith. The reverse would be expected. When harm and even death is threatened, that would be the ultimate destruction of faith itself.

    The only sensible way is to allow complete freedom of religion. The religious authorities should preach all they want to keep the adherents but without intimidation. Only then, things will fall in place.

  12. Rudi says:

    Malaysia is a pluralistic, multi-racial country. When Islam is politicised by the powers-that-be, other races inadvertently get smothered and shackled by self-righteous religious authorities. Definitely ain’t a good landscape for our beloved country.

  13. stewoolf says:

    We seem to be barking at the wrong tree! The Islam issue in Malaysia is more POLITICS than faith. The religious elite believes the solution to Malay dilemma lies in Islam while the more secular Malay political elite want an ethno-centric governmnet through the faith. Thus the collusion to form an artificial Malay-Muslim construct through the Malaysian constitution. The secular administration puts up tall walls to fence in the Malay-Muslim constituents while the religious establishment does the intrusive and petty moral policing and enforces the controversial syarie laws. After fifty years of independence, a corrupt and incompetent business class and an extreme religious group have become the dominant forces in Malay society, leaving the silent majority trapped in urban semi-slums and rural backwaters.

  14. hantu says:

    You know the one thing that really [pisses] me of when I read a good, honest article like this and than read comments by people who profess to be Muslims? They will say this or that is haram or halal. In fact, everything they say is based on assumptions. Please read the Quran for yourself. It really is quite simple and there’s not that much to read. There’s even a translation in Swahili if you live in Kenya. For a start, the Quran does not say alcohol is haram. It merely stated that you should not be in a state of intoxication when you are in a state of prayer…sounds fair and square to me. […] Please grow up. This is now the 21st century. Peace to all by an ex-Muslim.

    • NurL says:

      You are right. But too bad, most of them have never really read the Quran cover to cover in a language that they can understand. And when they have doubts, instead of thinking, they will refer to someone with a skull cap and accept whatever reason given without challenge. They world will be a better place if each and every Muslim really read and understood the Quran.

    • Sheema says:

      Totally agree with both of you. I have tried arguing with these type of Muslims and pointing out to them that if they just bother to read and understand the actual verses in the Qur’an they will realise the truth about all these lies…but the sad fact is, many of these people choose to remain blind and deaf and ignorant, and continue to slavishly parrot whatever the ulamas have told them. It’s very frustrating.

      • idris says:

        We all think we know better, don’t we. We all think we can intepret the Quran better than the other person (especially if that person looks like the typical ulama). Or we all think the other person has not bothered to read the Quran, and is merely ‘parroting’ what them alamaks say.

        Yeah. Sure. We’re all smarter than them, oh yeah.

        • miele says:

          Don’t know about everyone else,but I don’t think I’m smarter than ulamaks.

          However it’s only natural when something sounds fishy or weird when applied to real life, you ask for an explanation or discussion, and hopefully the wise ones in their wisdom would be wise enough to educate the masses.

          Ini tidak, asyik-asyik: how dare you question ulamak / Quran /Islam etc!. Ajar secara baik la bhai.

          • Reza says:

            The ulamaks are no doubt more knowledgeable than most of us regarding Islamic matters. But do they have the intelligence to competently act on or interpret this knowledge? They have a pretty abysmal track record when it comes to this (see my reply to Aini above for evidence). Their lack of common sense and due diligence is astonishing.

        • Sheema says:

          Ah yes, the usual “Do not dare to challenge or question the ulama” tactic to silence all dissent and debate. It is exactly this kind of attitude that contributed to my decision to finally leave religion behind once and for all.

    • Aini Abdullah says:

      “It merely stated that you should not be in a state of intoxication when you are in a state of prayer”.. Mr hantu, the Qur’an doesn’t just state that. The Qur’an also states:

      5:90 (Sahih International)

      O you who have believed, indeed, INTOXICANTS, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone altars [to other than Allah ], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.

      5:91 (Sahih International)

      Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through INTOXICANTS and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?

      2:219 (Sahih International)

      They ask you about WINE and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” And they ask you what they should spend. Say, “The excess [beyond needs].” Thus Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought.

      It is pretty clear (to me) that alcohol is a sort of ‘intoxicant’ and Allah clearly asked us to ‘avoid’ and ‘desist’ and even stated “in them is great sin” and sin can only be inflicted upon doing something that is Haram. This is basic, or if this is not enough, seek research upon research scientifically or psychologically (there are plenty) upon the negative impact of alcohol on human in general. It should sum it all up.

      Or perhaps you can just ask your conscience and let it answer you truthfully. Quoting the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessing Be Upon Him)

      ” When something weighs on your conscience, give it up.”
      ——— Prophet Muhammad (s) in Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 8.

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @ Aini Abdullah

        “They ask you about WINE and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” And they ask you what they should spend. Say, “The excess [beyond needs].” Thus Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought.”

        [When] you mention “and [yet, some] benefit for people”, I know that you are reading from a translation AND one which was translated by modern humans who already have the knowledge of the scientific benefits of red wine. (Do you) read and understand beyond elementary Arabic?

        [Or] are you just another one of those who quote the Qur’an according to your liking to support what you say. No different from those “sekolah pondok” ustaz-ustaz?

        • Aini Abdullah says:

          Kok Keng Kuat, thank you for your questions. However, before I answer you, let me set the record straight.

          Yes, I quote Verse 2:219 translated by (AS STATED in my original comment) Sahih International; an American translation team – google ‘Sahih International’ for info. I do prefer their usage of simple/current English translation, but there are also 5 other English translations from different translators from where I quoting it; (other languages also available)

          To answer your question, ‘do I read and understand beyond elementary Arabic’? As I’m not sure what is your measurement/bench of evaluation for ‘elementary Arabic’, I’ll break it down like this:

          a. I recognize each Arabic letter, I can write (independently, not copy) Arabic, I can sound the Arabic writing and I am familiar with the phonetic rules (tajweed). I know enough to confidently recite Qur’an when needed, alas my bad voice 🙂 However, my knowledge in reading and writing Arabic is far from perfect, and I am forever learning. In a sense of ‘reading’ as in ‘studying’- I do read extensively.

          b. I don’t yet understand Arabic to the point to be able to translate Qur’an verses with ease. It took me days to do my own translation using Arabic keyboard & A LOT of referrals translating invocation recited in my solat & du’a.

          No, I’m not just quoting Qur’an to my liking to support what I say, this was never about me. This was about conveying the message in the Qur’an correctly. I’d love to quote more as sometimes singling out a Qur’an verse or relaying it out of context can be easily misunderstood. Point is, the modern translators translate what was revealed by Allah to Prophet Muhammad in Arabic Quran not on their whim (do your own translation on the verse or ask about it if you doubt). That verse was revealed some 1400 years ago, telling us (among other MORE important things)’ has benefit..’ By YOUR statement, I assume modern science proves it to be true? Masha’Allah.

          I gotta check that out 🙂

          • Kong Kek Kuat says:

            @ Aini Abdullah

            Where in the Qur’an does Allah reveal that wine has some “benefit” for people? There are so many others (more qualified in the knowledge of Islam) who specifically translate it as “profit”, as in “… in them is great sin, and some profit, for men. (2.219)” Which one is it? And FYI, the Chinese and ancient civilisations and barbarians (such as the Mongols and Turks) knew that the fermented juice of fruits, rice, milk, etc., had health benefits and risks to humans BEFORE Allah revealed sùra 2.219.

            It is also obvious that the translation you rely on is trying to be non-sexist too, by using “people” instead of “men”. But what does the Arabic word in the Qur’an actually mean — “people” or “male men”? I believe it is “men”, and not “people” — just as I believe it is “profit”, and not “benefit”. Allah, Himself, is male.

            Sùra 2.219 mentions “wine” AND “gambling”. So, when we are asked about wine and gambling, Allah tells us to reply: “… in them is great sin, and some profit [from wine and gambling]; but the sin is greater than the profit [from wine and gambling].”

            I´m not too sure that your “modern translators translate what was revealed by Allah to Prophet Muhammad in Arabic Quran not on their whim”. They are, after all, only humans just like you, influenced by the environment they live in at the time of the translation.

            Even though it may make you, as a modern female, feel good reading a non-sexist version of the Qur’an, Allah has said: “Praise be to Allah, Who hath sent to His Servant the Book, and hath allowed therein no crookedness.” (18.1) I think you can take the Qur’an’s words as is.

          • Aini Abdullah says:

            Dear Kong Kek Kuat,

            Based on my own study on the verse (in Arabic), the root word for the Arabic word “manafi’u’ and ‘naf’ihuma’ in the verse (concerning ‘benefit/profit’), comes from the word nafa’. More precisely it is spelled in Arabic letters as nun-pha-‘ain. Other than being translated as “benefit/profit”, interestingly the Arab-English dictionary also came up with these translations: “availed, functionalist, wholesomely” (yes, I used 3 different online dictionaries with the Arabic keyboard). By studying all these meanings, then Insya Allah you will understand how deep this three-letter Arabic word can be.

            Point is, neither of these words contradict each other. In the easiest conclusion, we can find ‘benefit or profit’ in the same spectrum; “positive effect” – something good that can come after a certain act takes place. However, this is just my own opinion derived from my own understanding. Of course you are entitled to yours. If you say ‘benefit’ is not in the same standing as ‘profit’, then that is for you to say. Allah knows best.

            The Arabic word Al-Nas (spelled in Arabic letters Alif-lam-Nun-Alif-Sin) in this particular verse can be translated to English as ‘mankind, folks, people, peoples’. Bear in mind, in Islam we accept the word ‘MAN-kind’ to describe ‘people’. In Islam/Abrahamic faiths we believe human (men & women) originated from ONE man named Adam (as my husband often jokes, woman is actually a man with a womb).

            Regarding the word Allah. You must understand if you break this word down it consists of two parts: prefix ‘Al’ and the Arabic root word ‘ilah’. Perhaps when you understand this, you will have a clearer concept of it and know that Allah is not of any gender. In fact, Allah is nothing like what Allah has created. As I don’t want to get sucked into your sexist play, I will thank you for your response. It makes me study more about Allah and only increases my faith. FYI, ‘shallow’ is not in one of Allah’s attributes.

            (Continues in next posting)

          • Aini Abdullah says:

            (Continued from previous post)

            Kong Kek Kuat, I would never claim the Al-Quran as the origin of all knowledge as this is not what Allah said. Rather it is said that the Al-Quran, among other things, is “to confirm what has been revealed before”. I AGREE with you that as humans, we DO have the tendency to interpret Allah’s Words to fit our needs. Allah says it best in Surah Ali-Imran Verse 7, and I wish not to seek discord.

            May Allah guide us all, thank you for sharing.

        • Aini Abdullah says:

          Kong Kek Kuat,

          Again, thank you for pointing out the wine bit. After replying to your comment, I did a quick reading on the Positive and Negative impact of wine, and I found them to be really interesting reading.

          Perhaps if the editor allow some links attach to this comment, I would like to share them as I think many people can gain some input, Muslims and Non Muslims alike.

          The benefit of A GLASS of red wine :

          Negatives Sides of Wine Consumption :

          My fellow Non Muslim readers, enjoy your wine, just a glass or two kay? Be safe 🙂

          My fellow Muslim readers, easy on the sweet teh tarik please.. ;p

  15. For peeps wanting to know about Islam, not the one shoved down our throats by government agencies and friends, like us on Facebook (Crescent Collective) for fun events to come.

    You too, Jacq! 😀

    Cheers and peace be upon you.


  16. katijah @ cathy wong says:

    ….feel so sorry for you guys.. By the time you learn the truth, nothing will help…just watch out for disasters to come…For those Muslims who contributed to the condemnation of Islam, hope you have time to bertaubat.

    • All Religion Suck says:

      You do realise that people here are condemning the system and not the religion per se.

      Fanatics + religion = terrorists (which describes the Muslim authorities in Malaysia)

      Fools + religion = Tom Cruise, the sheep-people…etc.

      Intelligent people + religion = Don’t exist. Because smart people do not believe in religion. They either believe directly in God (no middle man, also known as religion, involved) or they don’t believe in anything at all.

      • Malay Atheist says:

        Hear, hear!

      • CS says:

        Hmmm…. I am a member of Mensa, so I am intelligent. I recently converted (I hate the word, revert). I believe in Allah, the Prophet, and the deen of Islam, after much, much examination. Friends did asked me to register with Jakim and I refused as I believe my accepting Allah and Islam has nothing to do with them.
        My point? I believe in God, and I believe in the religion of Islam because it is the way to God. But I certainly do not believe in middle men, or those who try to be middle men or who pretend to be middle men (Jakim and their kin). That is against the deen of Islam.

    • Adam says:

      It is good to have absolute faith in one’s belief if there is “absolute truth” but are you 100% sure of the truth? Faith can be blind but it can also be rational to a certain extent. You have to give oneself a chance if, at the end of the day, you find that all you have believed is not the truth. Is your life still considered well-lived and without regrets?

      What if you eventually find out that God does not allow jailing or killing of apostates and you have done that, thinking it is God’s instructions? Would it not be a tragedy which cannot be undone? So, please do not do things which you will regret for by the time you learn the real truth, indeed, nothing will help.

  17. rgp2300 says:

    I think [places] like Dubai and Brunei are awesome…Malaysia should learn from them.

  18. morelovelesshate says:

    I am full of resentment for our country’s “Islamic” policies, which not only make life difficult for Muslims but non-Muslims, too. Because of our country’s forceful, shove-it-down-your-throat policies, racism and anti-Islam sentiments lie in the heart of many non-Muslims, only to be awakened when inter-racial relationships come up. My ties with my family are strained because I choose to be with a Muslim who is of mixed parentage. The country gives my boyfriend – and now, me – no freedom of religion whatsoever; but bear in mind that this wasn’t always the case (conversion for marriage, and other ways of meddling in people’s lives, was not enforced before Independence). To protect myself against all the harsh advice of relatives, I probably have to become an expert in Syariah Law. But heck I might then realise that I am indeed on the losing end. As an academic, I wish I could comment more eloquently but most of the time all I can think is “I hate this country”, although more accurately it should be “I hate the people responsible for the state of our amazing country.”

  19. Addin says:

    To all my fellow non-Muslim friends,.we Muslims do not discuss nor ‘challenge’ any religious practices whether it is Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity or any other pagan religions practiced in Malaysia. And we do appreciate if you leave the Muslim matters to Muslims. Do not give any comments on anything that you do not know.

    And for my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters (who are questioning the rapid development of islam in Malaysia).. Yes…. Islam in Malaysia is not like the 50s, 60s or 70s, where Muslims can freely consume alcohol, commit adultery and so on without being prosecuted by the law. The majority of Muslims are trying to embrace Islam the way it should be. This is not about imitating ‘Vatican style of control’. If Saidina Abu Bakar r.a allowed Muslims to revert to their old ways during the first term of his reign (neglecting zakat, abandoning solat and fasting) then what will become of Islam? This is truly the obligation of all Muslims – to stick to Islam. All of it, and not just half of it.

    • Marcus says:

      Oh that’s right. You do not “challenge” any religious practices of other religions. You simply force it down their throats. Like how you tried to force the Catholics to change how they choose to call God.

      Leave Muslim matters to Muslims? Do I need to be a woman to comment on women’s issues? Or an animal to comment on animal rights?

      • Addin says:

        lol.. well your comment shows how shallow your understanding about Islam. Yes.. we will continue to tell non muslims to “leave muslim matters to muslim” and we are good in doing this.

        and just to answer your argument… since when do Catholics refer to God as Allah?.. 🙂 I dont see it in majority of christian nations, catholic, protestant or even mormon!

        and must I tell you that Islam liberates women in its own way?.. its embedded in shariah law. women can own their own assets and so on.. much earlier than any democratic country or western block country in modern history.

        • Marcus says:

          Where ever in my comment did I make any statement that showed my understanding, or lack thereof, of Islamic doctrines/teachings?

          All I simply provided was my own personal opinion that nothing should be precluded from commentary, criticism or discussion. Every and any ideological or belief system should be put under scrutiny, from both “insider” and “outsider” viewpoints. And yes, that includes religious beliefs as well.

          Most other religions have no problems responding to healthy (sometimes scathing) debate and criticism. Islam should be no different. In fact as a Muslim, you should welcome these opportunities to explain to non-Muslims the significance and meaning of your practices, eg why you do certain things in certain ways, clear up some misconceptions regarding your religion etc.

          It seems perfectly reasonable, and certainly more pleasant than going all defensive and shutting people off from debate simply with a retort like “leave Muslim matters to Muslims”. That’s taking the intellectually lazy way out.

          I would normally also respond to your point about the “Catholic/Allah” issue, but frankly I’m not in the mood since that issue has been debated to death already.

          • Addin says:

            Since when you are doing healthy debate here? It seems to me that you are doing some criticism. And mind you, your personal opinions are biased. You are living here for how many years? There are many Muslim scholars whom you could ask but still you hide behind your so called ‘good intention’. Now If you want to learn more about Islam, I can happily assist you in doing so. From Muslim scholars of course 🙂 Do you dare?

        • Qwerty says:

          […] Go to the Middle East! Muslims there don’t even claim a Christian cannot use the word Allah! […]

    • Your claim that the Islamic authorities/some Muslims don’t challenge the practices of other religions in Malaysia is untrue.

      And just because a Muslim is persecuted unjustly, in the name of Islam, and I’m non-Muslim, you want your fellow citizens to keep quiet because it doesn’t affect us? That’s like suggesting, please turn a blind eye to injustice because it doesn’t affect you. So, Muslims in Malaysia should also turn a blind eye towards the plight of Palestinians? And men should keep quiet when women are abused?

    • Sheema says:

      “Islam the way it should be” is an extremely loaded statement. Islam according to whose interpretation, exactly???

    • thepinkdot says:

      Well said Marcus, or perhaps we shouldn’t be challenging Addin, just cos we aren’t Addin.

  20. morelovelesshate says:

    Hindu, Buddhist and Christian countries of today do not force their citizens to follow their interpretation of their religion and prosecute them for not doing so. In addition, their laws do not impact the lives of others who do not officially subscribe to the religion, whether or not they are a majority or minority. Likewise, the other religions in Malaysia do not impede on the lives of others. A Muslim’s obligation is to stick to Islam, but you can’t force anyone to do it, only educate them. Why live a lie pretending to be a good Muslim just because you are afraid of the law? Will this help you love God more?

    • Addin says:

      A Muslim obligation is indeed to stick to Islam, as a whole. We must clearly understand that 60% of the population of Malaysia are Muslims, therefore it’s only normal that there is strong belief in implementing Islam as a way of life in Malaysia.. that is why I am saying that situation now is different if compared to the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s. For my non muslims friends.. Islam will protect your rights to practice your own religion.

  21. idris says:

    “At one point in her life, Jacqueline Ann Surin considered embracing Islam and was exhorted by her Malaysian Muslim friends not to. ”

    What kind of friends do you have, exactly? Intellectual wannabes? Those who think it fashionable to run down their own religion? If they actually discouraged someone who was actually considering embracing the religion… why are they themselves still in the religion in the first place? Why haven’t they stepped out of the religion, if they think it unworthy of your worthy self? Let me guess… because it is difficult/impossible to do so in Malaysia? Bollocks I say.

    One can always be a ‘Muslim’ as far as the government is concerned, but in truth (i.e. in one’s heart), be an apostate, in which case it should be ‘Muslim’ or even ex-Muslim, certainly not Muslim. Are your friends of this sort? They must be. Else they would not have discouraged you.

    Your friends could, perhaps, have encouraged you to embrace Islam privately but not officially (and thus avoid all the rubbish). I don’t see the problem. Why didn’t they do this? Because they thought their own religion, the religion itself, was #%$$?

    Or maybe you’re just trying to sound like someone who is ‘open’ to anything and everything, who is not biased in anyway (except, of course, when it comes to LGBTs)? Yeah.

    [Last, note that you could replace Muslim with any other religion, but the argument, I believe, will still hold).

    • Reza says:

      “One can always be a ‘Muslim’ as far as the government is concerned, but in truth (i.e. in one’s heart), be an apostate, in which case it should be ‘Muslim’ or even ex-Muslim, certainly not Muslim.”

      No such thing as a silent apostate. You can stop practicing the religion, like myself, but if the laws of the religion are still being shoved down your throat by an oppressive government, then you are not a full apostate. True, full and complete apostasy means total freedom, both public AND private, to choose or denounce your religion. A true Muslim apostate should be able to drink alcohol at a bar or eat in public during ramadhan without having to worry about the religious authorities.

      So, technically, such a person would still be considered a Muslim but in name only, not in practice.

      • idris says:

        Sorry, but I disagree completely.

        Not a full apostate, just because you cannot publicly denounce your religion? Just because you cannot eat in public during ramadhan? I cannot see your logic.

        If you stop believing, you’re an apostate – never mind if the laws of the religion are still being shoved down your throat.

        Similarly, if you don’t practice the religion but still believe in God and the Prophet, then you’re still a Muslim – just a very bad one (as far as the religion is concerned, not against human values or whatever).

        But really, do you want to argue over definitions? There won’t be a winner methinks.

        • Reza says:

          In this argument there are two sides to apostasy. No doubt what you say is partially true, a person can be an apostate by abandoning his or her religion without others knowing, but this is only one side of the coin. In states where religion is controlled and dictated like in our “beloved” country, the official status of a persons religion also has to be taken into account, especially if it still has an impact on the life of the “apostate”, ie not being able to consume alcohol in public etc.

          Thus, I disagree with your statement: “Why haven’t they stepped out of the religion, if they think it unworthy of your worthy self? Let me guess… because it is difficult/impossible to do so in Malaysia? Bollocks I say.”

          I would consider it difficult/impossible to be an apostate in Malaysia if Islamic laws are still being imposed on the so-called “apostate”. As I said, I do not consider this to be full apostasy. Apostasy does not just mean abandoning belief in the religion, but also abandoning its practices COMPLETELY. And if the apostate cannot drink alcohol or eat publicly during ramadhan, then the latter condition is not met. At best, the person is just a partial apostate.

          • idris says:

            I think I see what the problem is. You, Reza, just picked out a paragraph, and then another, to argue about, without reading these in the proper context. You probably just skimmed through the rest without thinking about what I was trying to say.

            Here’s a hint – I was referring to JAS’s Muslim friends (as far as I am concerned, ‘Muslim’), who discouraged her from embracing Islam.

            You might also be interested in reading my other comments on this post.

            Slightly off topic – the way I see things, if I stopped believing in the religion, and were asked by those I trust (as in, those who won’t go screaming to JAIS or whatever), I’d say I am no longer a Muslim. But I suppose you would insist I am, just because I cannot drink alcohol in public, huh? Fine. Whatever you like.

          • Reza says:

            Idris, I was well aware that you were referring to JAS’s friends, but your assertions as to what constitutes an apostate and that it is easy to be an apostate in Malaysia, apply to all Muslims, and I was expressing my disagreement with your opinion.

            “…the way I see things, if I stopped believing in the religion, and were asked by those I trust (as in, those who won’t go screaming to JAIS or whatever), I’d say I am no longer a Muslim. But I suppose you would insist I am, just because I cannot drink alcohol in public, huh? Fine. Whatever you like.”

            Nobody understands your statement above more than I do, as I am in that exact situation. And to those whom I trust to be non-judgmental, I tell them that I am no longer a practicing Muslim (except of course those practices in which i have no choice) and that I no longer believe in the religion. But I have never told anyone that I am an apostate, for the reasons I have stated in my previous posts. I consider myself an aspiring apostate.

            But if you still insist on your definition of apostasy, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

        • Sheema says:

          I have to agree with Reza. Regardless of whether a person considers themselves to be an apostate personally, Malaysia will still legally classify that person as a Muslim, and impose all manner of Islamic laws on that person. So for all intents and purposes, under the law, as far as the authorities are concerned, that person is still classified as a Muslim. There is no escape.

    • idris says:

      Please make the corrections as below:

      “Intellectual wannabes?” should be “Wannabe Intellectuals?”.

      “Your friends could, perhaps, have encouraged you to embrace Islam privately but not officially (and thus avoid all the rubbish).”
      should be
      “Your friends could, perhaps, have encouraged you to embrace Islam privately but not officially (and thus you avoid all the rubbish that comes with being a Muslim, officially, in our country). In which case you won’t ever be able to perform the Haj as a Malaysian, but that cannot be helped.”


      Thank you.

    • Actually it’s because of my Muslim friends that I was drawn to Islam. And it’s because they know how much Muslims suffer because of the way Islam is administered in this country that they discouraged me. It’s not about Islam. It’s about how the state misinterprets the teachings of the faith in a way that does not uphold compassion, justice and fairness — all the values that Islam exhorts.

      And they were right in doing so. Just look at the numerous examples I have cited in my column.

      And there are ample examples of how Muslims who want to leave their faith in Malaysia are persecuted. I’ll give you just one. Lina Joy who eventually had to leave the country in order to exercise her freedom of religion.

      • idris says:

        You, like Reza above, seem to have missed my point completely. Perhaps you didn’t read my post properly. Or perhaps I don’t understand yours (or have it all wrong – I am willing to admit this possibility).

        I wrote:
        “Your friends could, perhaps, have encouraged you to embrace Islam privately but not officially (and thus avoid all the rubbish). I don’t see the problem. Why didn’t they do this? Because they thought their own religion, the religion itself, was #%$$? ”

        Meaning to say you could be a ‘closet’ Muslim (or Christian (of which I believe there are many), or whatever), known only to your closest friends and family, but not the government.

        Your numerous examples, the Lina Joy case – completely irrelevant to what I am saying. Lina Joy was officially a Muslim, so of course the authorities would (wrongly) be all over her for wanting to exercise her freedom of religion.

        What I’m saying is that if your friends were real Muslims (or Christians, or whatever), they would not have discouraged you. They would have suggested you keep your conversion (if you had continued along that course) secret from the evil and unjust body that is our government, until things get better (if ever) or until you can afford to relocate overseas.

        That is what I was saying.
        In my case, I do not want to be recognized as a Muslim by the state (our state that is), even though I consider myself a Muslim.

        By the way I posted a comment with some corrections, none of which were implemented.

  22. Adam says:

    To Addin & Idris,

    I could empathise with you on the many unfriendly comments about your religion. I would feel the same if other people say such things about my religion. Having said that, we have to ask ourselves why are people so unkind and unsympathetic towards our religion? There must be some underlying issues which have actually contributed to their hurtful remarks. Even our own kind could write such unkind things.

    Comparing Islam with the other religions, there is one big difference which I feel is the main cause of all this so-called bashing. It is the complete freedom of belief that other religions have, that little or no bad remarks are made of the other religions. There is hardly any criticism because if you do not believe in any of the doctrines or rituals, you could go in peace.

    Unlike Islam as practised in Malaysia, a Muslim cannot just leave without going through intimidation, rehab and even jail to get out. Even then, one may not be able to get out after serving sentence such as Makcik Kamariah Ali. She has served her sentence and yet not allowed to leave. Any conscientious human being would object to this. We cannot play God to subject a person to such unjust treatment. The authorities may think they are trying to save her soul but what if they are wrong. Would it not be a greater sin to take away a person’s freedom? I say let the individual take care of his/her own spiritual welfare.

    As for Non-Muslims involved in such discussions, some of them may have siblings and children who have converted through marriage or otherwise and they care enough to comment on any unfair and unjustified rulings which may affect their relationship in the family. If there is complete freedom of choice, I am sure they would desist commenting, knowing that their Muslim family members want to be subjected to the Muslim laws willingly.

    So, unless there is complete freedom without intimidation, you have to bear with this situation. So, there you have it. Peace.

    • idris says:

      Err… no you don’t understand. Can’t blame you, JAS and Reza didn’t understand, either.

      I don’t care, really, about all the negative things being said about ‘my’ religion.

      I just take issue with this
      “At one point in her life, Jacqueline Ann Surin considered embracing Islam and was exhorted by her Malaysian Muslim friends not to. She is alarmed at the targeted persecution of Muslims in Malaysia by the state and its agencies in the name of Islam.”

      Throughout history people have been hiding their true beliefs – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, whatever – from the powers that be. If JAS friends were real Muslims (or Christians, or whatever – I tire of repeating this), they would not have discouraged her. They would have, instead, suggested she be a closet Muslim.

      I have had friends who so proudly boasted that they would discourage anyone from embracing (in this case) Islam. Friends who considered themselves liberal, well read, intellectual etc. I suppose they wanted to brag (indirectly) of having an awareness of the situation in our country, of being ‘enlightened’. I don’t see why these people still call themselves Muslims. It’s not like I’d go running to the JAI to report them or whatever.

      • Adam says:


        Putting myself in your shoes, I would try to understand your view-point. Your statement in your response to Jacq before mine above, speaks volumes in your case. You wrote: “In my case, I do not want to be recognized as a Muslim by the state (our state that is), even though I consider myself a Muslim”.

        So, you are a “closet” Muslim yourself and do not want to be recognised as one, at least not publicly. No wonder you would encourage Jacq to be like you and unlike her friends who have discouraged her from converting. Now that I know your status, can I ask a few pertinent questions:

        1. Are you still having your original name on your IC and have not changed it to Idris as yet and your previous religion or none is still stated on it?
        2. I presume you have not registered with the authorities. How are you paying for zakat? Anonymously?
        3. Do you go for your Friday prayers without being recognised? I presume you could.
        4. I presume you could practise the first 4 pillars of the faith without people knowing. How are you to do the 5th without registering?

        To you, a change of heart is all it takes to be considered a Muslim but to others, you have to declare publicly and on record the acceptance of the faith to be called one. I believe Jacq’s friends were discouraging her from official conversion and not disbelieving in Allah.

        With the many differing versions and intepretations of religion, it is therefore sensible to allow complete freedom of belief with no intimidation nor coercion. People should believe or disbelieve without fear.

        In years of old, people were prepared to be thrown to hungry lions or be burned at the stake for their unwavering beliefs. I guess you are smart enough to hide and live to believe. May you find peace and spiritual fulfilment in your faith.

      • JW Tan says:

        ‘Closet Muslims’ – such intellectual dishonesty! Either you believe or you don’t. Either way, no one should be shamed or intimidated into hiding their views. If someone wishes to embrace Islam, then it is right to do it officially. Similarly, if one no longer believes in their religion, then it is right to publicly renounce it if one wishes. It’s a statement about one’s beliefs. Any political or legal system that prevents a person from doing these things is repressive and wrong.

    • Sheema says:

      What a wonderful comment Adam, and spot-on. You have echoed the sentiments of one of my most favourite quotes, from the Sudanese Islamic scholar Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im: “If I don’t have the freedom to disbelieve, I cannot believe.”

  23. Aidan says:

    My most sincere gratitude to Jacqueline Ann Surin for bravely addressing an issue which has been a main concern to me. As a Muslim, I believe that my faith is between Allah & myself. When I pray, I feel Allah close in my heart. For years, I’ve wondered whether I was the only Muslim who felt frustrated about how my religion is being used for the sake of politics in my country. I’ve been confused about all the laws which seem bent on instilling fear in Muslims & making it difficult for us to practice Islam in our own simple way. I’ve been afraid that I would not be able to survive living in this country if things were to get any worse. Thank you for understanding these problems & writing them down so well. To Arif & everyone one else who supports this article, thank you, thank you, thank you too. I’ve not dared to voice my thoughts & concerns as I felt that no other Muslim felt the same, and the non-Muslims probably didn’t care. It’s a blessing to have people as brave as you are who are able to voice your beliefs clearly & openly. It’s time I start doing the same.

    • chris says:

      I think this is a common dilemma of any religion. Becoming closer to your God is a personal thing. It is more or less impossible to be forced, or cajoled into being closer to your God. But most religions work like this, telling you how to behave in this and that circumstance, what you can, and cannot eat and drink, what relationships you can or can’t have.

      When these religions were devised and codified, these restrictions made sense, to create social cohesion and a sense of communal unity, sometimes in the face of severe repression, or armed violence. However, in a modern state, where knowledge is more freely available, and people (ideally) are enabled to think for themselves, these codified restrictions are often more of a burden to one’s faith, rather than a help.

      One could view this as a method of control , creating a ‘power structure’, with the people at the top controlling the populace, with the intention of staying in that position, by interpreting religious doctrines to suit their own ends, rather than helping to increase someone’s faith.

      I feel that while the dominant force of worldly conciousness is control, this will not change.
      My personal view is religion and state should be separated, but this is difficult to achieve with Islam, as the faith dictates so much of one’s life.

  24. Jamie says:

    So guys, what’s the solution?

    I read all the comments here, lots of criticism but no solution, and when I say solution, a viable, and applicable and solution that can be discussed in the parliament.

  25. idris says:

    “At one point in her life, Jacqueline Ann Surin considered embracing Islam and was exhorted by her Malaysian Muslim friends not to. She is alarmed at the targeted persecution of Muslims in Malaysia by the state and its agencies in the name of Islam.”


    We all know you hate the current government – and no doubt this hatred is justified, we all hate the current govt, after all – but trying to say you would have embraced Islam if it weren’t for the government, trying to say the government is to blame for Islam having one less adherent (and a very smart one at that), is really sad. You needn’t resort to this to make your point (that being recognized as a Muslim in our country is not a good thing).

  26. stewoolf says:

    For many years, I was profoundly conflicted with the fact that the perpetrators of 9/11 were unfaithful Muslims, who drank and visited prostitutes, yet were willing to self-sacrifice and kill for Islam. Many, including our Muslim politicians, characterised them, unconvincingly, as astrayed and deviant, etc. A British Muslim author recently voiced a telling rational: they were fighting for a political ideology, the Islamic state, (as a solution to the dyfunctional states in the Middle East), NOT for Islam, the FAITH. They were dying for a political cause, like Communism or democracy.

    Islam is practised in Malaysia NOT as a FAITH, but a RELIGION of political expediency to ensure the Malays’ survival, just like state-recognised Tibetan Budhism sects or Christian churches in China. Any other forms, personal or organised, are considered cults. Nothing and nobody, except God(s), can stop one from renouncing his/her faith, but the state can stop one from leaving a RELIGION, a man-made organisation, by refusing to erase his/her membership. Further, apostasy could be persecuted and/or illegalised.

    • Cas says:

      Stewoolf, your first paragraph there is utterly shocking. And I am amazed no one has challenged you so far on this. The mind truly boggles.

      • stewoolf says:

        The first half in the first paragraph were findings in the 9/11 investigations and intelligence reports. The second half was proposed in a book that I agreed [with]. You should challenge the conclusion, in the second paragraph, which I formed after learning the Malay definition in the constitution and in the Lina Joy case.

      • Marcus says:

        In what respect was stewoolf’s comment shocking? He was drawing a distinction between Islam as a belief system, and Islam that is used as political ideology.

  27. Addin says:

    Islam is a monotheist religion. Islam is unique because Islam is not touching solely on spiritual aspects in life. Islam is about how a man or woman should lead this life. How to govern, how to treat other people even how to eat. The only thing that we Muslims will not tolerate is when other parties tell us that the Islamic fundamentals (and I stress this again, FUNDEMENTAL) Islam basic foundation is oppressing other people.

    I support those who protect this religion. And I am sure that despite who ever gains control of the government, Islam will thrive in this country, Insya-Allah.

    • Adam says:


      Your last comment requires a response. Unless you go down to the ground and see for yourself how some Islamic authorities and individuals oppress others in their religious beliefs, you would not feel the opression and control. A case in point is the building of churches. Even when Christians have the land and the financial resources to build their own churches, more often than not, they would be turned down by all kinds of reasons. That is why most of the church groups operate “illegally” in shoplots and factories.

      As for Islam thriving in Malaysia, I have no doubt that Islam will continue to be in the forefront of the country’s affairs in the years to come but unless [political] Islam reforms itself to be more inclusive of other sects and divisions, there would be much strife within the Muslim communities.

      In this respect, I hope you could read all about what the Islamic Renaissance Front is trying to do to portray Islam as a progressive religion in tune with modern times. They have organised lectures and talks by reknown Muslim scholars such as Prof. Tariq Ramadan who, incidentally, is presently in the country conducting a series of lectures and forums. You may still have a chance to catch him in Penang on 18 July presenting a lecture on “A Civil State – Ideas and Challenges”. Details could be found at IRF website: .

      You could also read many interesting and enlightening articles from the IRF website. I am absolutely impressed by their initiatives and dedication to the cause of peaceful co-existence of all people. Hope you could join them too. Peace.

  28. Chandra says:

    If khalwat is a sin, why not enter into one of the forms of temporary marriages approved in Malaysia. Then the act of khalwat can be un-sinned. What la there is always an approved loop hole in Islam.
    Humans have an Allah-given right to decide their actions, and the punishment should be left to Allah and not to mere mortals. After all when Adam and Eve disobeyed, punishment was given by Allah and not by the religious police!

    • Addin says:

      Chandra, unfortunately there is no such thing as temporary marriages in Islam. And of course when sinners commit sins, they will eventually be punished by Allah but Islam has its own shariah law to maintain order.. and it’s not just words from Muhammad or any other scholar .. these are words and laws from Allah.

      • Adam says:

        How you know it’s from Allah? He told you?

        • Adam (the other) says:

          My namesake,

          Muslims believe that the Koran is from Allah through their Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). If you do not agree, you have to put forward your points without having to be sarcastic.

          • Kong Kek Kuat says:

            @ Adam (the other)

            Not you who gave more thoughtful replies [not that I agree with all your replies] to Addin? I was wondering why you would suddenly make such funny replies here.

            Then this “Adam (this other)” may be a troll (in the true sense of the word, and not in the sense that is being thrown around too liberally these days). BN sent?

      • JSTOM says:

        Then, how come Saudi Arabia practises it?

  29. another perspective says:

    I don’t know why you guys are complaining. It’s just a little hiccup which would happen if you’re unlucky. There are so many advantages of being a Muslim in Malaysia (I don’t need to explain myself on this as you know the perks of being a Muslim in Malaysia).

    My Malay friends still drink, have sex, take bribes and have done many other things which is prohibited in any religion. I don’t see them complaining.

  30. Ed961 says:

    Example 1: A Non Muslim married couple with 3 children below age 18. Perhaps age 3, 8 and 10. The husband converts to Islam officially and converts his children officially without his wife’s knowledge.

    This is a very much highlighted issue in Malaysia. Please comment.

    Example 2: A Non Muslim man had secretly converted to Islam officially. His wife and children only discover he is a Muslim after his death in a tragic road accident.

    The point I would like to highlight here is that the man’s assets (His money and property) will not be administered under commom law. Instead it will be syariah law which decides who receives the man’s assets. I came to be aware of this in our local dailies when such a case happened in Malacca years ago. After several years of appealing the wife was given a portion of the assets out of the good heart of the Muslim authorities. In such a situation the non Muslim family is denied the rights to the assets on grounds that they are not Muslims. Not forgetting outright body snatching. Please comment.

  31. Petes says:

    Does any Muslim here think that not having Islam as an official religion in a country would actually affect your faith? I don’t think so. Perhaps you should have as much confidence in yourselves as I do in you.

  32. Camouflage says:

    1,400 years is way too young and still at the infancy stage to be calling the rest of the world religions and faiths kafir or whatever other inferior terms.

    At 1,400 years, we were already inventing tools, language, writings, astrology, astronomy, technology, music, arts, sacred sites, and human laws.

    Please cut the extremism and much apologies.

  33. JSTOM says:

    I believe there is another problem that has not been addressed. There are double standards in the implementation of Islamic and criminal laws. Those in the upper class (rich and well-connected) are above both these laws in Malaysia! Everyone knows of the many cases of rape including the under-aged where the perpetrators go scot-free or were never even investigated or charged! In some cases, the complainant is charged and jailed! Rich Muslims continue to enjoy life, usually outside the country during the fasting month!

  34. zhaiy says:

    Hi, the whole content of your article is purely emotional and misleading, might be better if your argue with facts and reason. It really lacks genuine knowledge. Malaysians need more knowledgeable people who can write good. In fact in any country we live, if you want to present something, you have to have basis of knowledge. Hope you’ll write responsibly, next.

    • And how is it “misleading”? It’s not enough to declare that what I’ve written is “misleading” and lacking in “genuine knowledge” when you yourself are unable to prove your claims. The cases I have cited to argue my point are fact-based. So, if you want to take this line of argument about my column, you’ll need to demonstrate that you, too are capable of proving your claims. If you are unable to, perhaps you shouldn’t be too surprised if some people will dismiss your comment as being contrarian for the sake of being so.

      • Flag of Truth says:

        @ Jacqueline Ann Surin

        You are writing from your own perspective. To understand Islam, one must possess the knowledge passed by from the days of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions.

        Irshad Manji’s perception on LGBT alone is quite contrary to the basic fundamentals in Islam. To me it is a waste of time to discuss this.

        And saying that it is harder for Muslims here in Malaysia because they can’t think? Just because the government decided to ban this book or certain publications LOL..

        So if Muslims can’t think, maybe you feel you can think for them? The government has its own responsibility. And we the Muslim masses have our own responsibility, too.

  35. Chandra says:

    What Islam needs urgently is a REFORMATION.

  36. Flag of Truth says:

    @ Chandra

    Muslims doesn’t need […] you to tell them what is best for them. Just stick to your religious belief :).. your religion could also need reform, you know :).

  37. honesty says:

    Some facts need to be mentioned here.
    Malaysia is not an Islamic state but is under manipulation from Saudi Arabia to become such.
    This is an Asian country, but just like Indonesia, Arab traders brought this religion and taught it to uneducated people.


    Muslims are only a narrow majority in Malaysia because Malays at birth are given no choice and registered as Muslim.
    Muslims from other failing Islamic states with existing huge crime and social problems are encouraged to come and work in Malaysia, counted as part of the Muslim majority […].

    • Flag of Truth says:

      @ honesty

      It is clear that your judgement is clouded by your negative attitude towards Islam. It is worth mentioning that most nusantara people including negeri-negeri Tanah Melayu embraced Islam willingly without any bloodshed. And it is worth mentioning too that people in China also embraced Buddhism but does this make them uneducated? Maybe if your analogy can be accepted then we can assume that the Chinese in the mainland at that time were uneducated’, which to me cannot be accepted at all.

      There are so many things that you don’t know about these ‘uneducated’ people. These uneducated people are the same people which build the Angkor Wat, Borobudur and Prambanan and also the same people who build the Malacca fort which was famously known as the Venice of the east at that time.

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