Forced Conversion: Sarawak’s Christians Will not Keep Quiet, BUT…

Christians in Sabah and Sarawak have been complaining about  surreptitious conversion of Christian natives for twenty over years, but to no avail. Islamic proselytizing and conversion of Christians have become more flagrant than ever. Perhaps, the authorities perceive that many Christian natives, especially those in the rural areas, will not go beyond complaining (or groaning) as poverty renders them vulnerable to inducement that accompanies conversion to Islam. Indeed, some natives may not mind their children converting to Islam when they marry a Muslim as this would open opportunities for social mobility and uplift.

It is a matter of great urgency that pastors and community leaders work together to confront and contain Islamic proselytization. This would require:

1) Systematic and comprehensive Christian education to build up the faith of believers, especially Christian parents whose children are targeted when they attend the tadika-taska (Islamic kindergarten-nursery) set up government agencies.
2) Initiatives in economic empowerment that include assisting economic micro-enterprises, organizing economic cooperatives among the Christian villages, and creating SMEs that would provide jobs for the semi-rural Christians.
3) Mobilizing churches and NGOs to hold their wakil-wakil rakyat  accountable for their failure to prevent conversion to Islam through economic inducement.

The Christian natives are literally overwhelmed by Islamic proselytization programs that are funded by vast government resources. Will Peninsular Malaysian Christians readily share resources with their besieged brethren as they face an unprecedented threat to the existence of the East Malaysian church?

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Native Christians [Surreptitiously] ‘Converted’ by State Policy

Native Christians Want Immediate Stop to ‘Mykad-Islamisation’ –  SIDANG INJIL BORNEO (SIB) SABAH PRESS RELEASE 14 Aug 2014
Forced Conversion: Sarawak’s Christians Will not Keep Quiet
by Jimmy Adit  The Ant Daily 8 Nov 2015

Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) triennial delegates’ conference was held Nov 1, and officiating was Prime Minister Najib Razak who, amid mounting claims of Islamisation in Borneo, assured that the government has never forcibly converted people to Islam.
“The government holds to the principle that there is no compulsion in Islam.
“In Islam, there is a verse saying ‘to you your religion, to me my religion’. This means there is no compulsion in Islam.
“If an individual wants to convert to Islam, yes by all means, but there is no compulsion in Islam. So I want to give assurance that we hold on to this principle.
“If there are cases going against this, report it to the chief minister (and) to the government,” he was quoted as saying.

These are very comforting words, non-Muslim Sarawakians who make up the majority of the population, especially Dayaks who are Christians, should worry no more about the presence of Muslim religious teachers, ustaz and ustazah, in their midst.
The reason is if they have strong suspicion that these teachers are involved in clandestine efforts to convert their children, report them straight to the government. To Najib. To Chief Minister Adenan Satem.

Let’s be honest about it, Sarawak Christians are a worried lot, and they have reasons to worry.

They are worried because ustaz and ustazah are being posted to rural schools where there are just one or two or no Muslims. One supposes that these teachers are to teach Islam or Islamic studies in schools where students are mostly or all non-Muslims or Christians.

Ustaz and ustazah don’t teach Bible studies, do they?  So why are they being posted to these schools? They come from as far as Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah and have no reason to be in these far-flung schools that other teachers from Malaya teaching other subjects dread to be posted into. Many teachers from Malaya posted into the ulu asked to be transferred out within their first six months. Others spoke of their bitter experiences having to put up with, and unable to adapt to, the local cultures and practices.

Despite such complaints, religious teachers are still posted into the rural schools, mostly on the excuse that these schools have a couple of Muslim students. And the next thing you knew was of some underage boys and girls being converted, and then followed by the complications created by claims and counterclaims – of children wanting to embrace Islam voluntarily, of religious teachers who were there to facilitate the process while parents were never informed.

Take the case of the attempt by some Muslim teachers from Malaya to convert a From One student of SMK Lutong that was widely reported last March. Christians in Sarawak did not take too kindly to the incident because it involved an underage Christian.

Christians can very well accept conversion of their Christian brothers and sisters if that is their choice. Christians marrying Muslims and converting in doing so is not uncommon. In fact, so many members of extended Christian families are Muslims and they co-exist in harmony. Why? Because conversion is a choice; not coerced.

Christian Sarawakians do not take too kindly to the conversion of their children and Christian brothers and sisters by coercion. This was actually why Christians reacted strongly to the attempt to covert the Form One student of SMK Lutong in Miri last March where two school teachers and some men allegedly carried out a conversion ceremony at a house in Kuala Baram, gave her a Muslim name and RM250 for prayer clothing. She was told that she would be taken to the Islamic Affairs Department to formalise the conversion.

“The conversion did not materialise as it did not reach the Islamic Affairs Department,” Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development Fatimah Abdullah was quoted as saying. What could have happened if she had been taken to the Islamic Affairs Department? Could Najib have said, no this is not right, return the girl to her parents? Could Adenan say, this is Sarawak, this is not how it should be done in this state?

The Islamisation of Borneo’s non-Muslims has been going on under all kinds of pretexts and pretences.

On 10 Oct 2014, Sarawak DAP vice-chairman Leon Jimat Donald spoke of some parents complaining that their children were being enticed into converting to Islam in their schools in Betong. Children were allegedly prevented from bringing their Bibles to the MRSM boarding schools and boys forced to wear the ‘songkok’.

Shortly after this, reports were filtering from the interior of Miri that a group had been visiting longhouses in Belaga to convert the communities. It was alleged that the group had misused the “goodwill and welfare” programme to entice folk to become Muslims with an offer of RM6,000 per person. Earlier in May of that year, another Malayan NGO, Himpunan Lepas Institusi Pendidikan Malaysia (Haluan) was alleged to have set up “religious camps” under the programme called “Anak Angkat” in schools in and around Kuching.

Following feedback from their children, parents voiced their concerns to Balai Ringin assemblyman Snowdan Lawan. They met Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Dr James Masing to tell him about the alleged conversions. They said some of the speakers from Haluan were ustaz, who lectured the children on things like how to differentiate between holy water and “Air ZamZam”. The programme was subsequently suspended prior to re-evaluation.

Mariam Mokhtar writing for The Ant Daily in her article, ‘Religious conversion rears its ugly head again’ about a year ago, said:

“In 2006, it was reported that in an effort to propagate the spread of Islam, Kelantan offered Muslim preachers RM10,000 to marry Orang Asli women. Other incentives included free accommodation, a four-wheel drive vehicle and a fixed monthly allowance of RM1,000.  “For the interior people of Sarawak, most of whom do not have a fixed income, RM50 is considered a blessing, RM300 a king’s ransom, and RM6,000 as heaven sent. The financial incentive to the Muslim preachers of Kelantan is morally wrong. These acts are objectionable and deceitful.”

What all this shows is there are efforts – ongoing ones – to convert the economically disadvantaged poor and downtrodden. The government and the authorities must not deny that these campaigns exist and they worry non-Muslim Sarawakians. In the same article, Mariam writes: “When Muslim clerics claim that Muslims are being converted in churches throughout Selangor and Perak, all hell breaks loose. When Muslims are accused of converting people of other faiths against their will, nothing happens.”

Well, with Najib’s latest assurance, things will happen the way the prime minister want them to if ustaz and ustazah are being posted to Sarawak to earn their conversion incentives. Najib can be sure, the non-Muslims will not keep quiet. The people will speak. The NGOs will speak.

Hopefully, the government lawmakers will speak too. The Sarawak BN lawmakers have been too quiet on the issue of Islamisation of the Borneo people that there seems to be a lot of truth to words that they are afraid of their political masters. If they have not heard, let’s tell them they should fear no more because the prime minister said he is personally concerned and he wants to be told

JIMMY ADIT is a by-product of journalism’s school of hard knocks. A has-been politikus, today he relishes life in the fringes of politics.

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One Comment

  1. KIM-SAI TAN says:

    ISLAMIC INSTITUTIONS–FEDERAL, STATE, GOVERNMENTAL, PRIVATE, INTERNATIONAL–ARE POURING IN TONS OF MONEY AND TURNING OUT TENS OF THOUSAND OF USTADZ/ USTADZAH AND MISSIONARIES EACH YEAR, IF NOT SENDING THEM OUT TO THE VULNERABLE PARTS OF THE COUNTRY TO PROSELYTIZE, WHAT ELSE CAN THEY DO? PASTORS IN EAST MALAYSIA JUST NEED TO BE WATCHFUL AND STRENGTHEN THE FLOCKS BEFORE THEY ARE SWALLOWED UP! GOD HAVE MERCY. CHURCHES IN THE PENINSULA SHOULD HELP OUT IN WHATEVER WAY WE CAN. GOD ABIDES.

    REV. KS