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Monday, November 20, 2006

Apostasy of Malaysia's Muslims - A Study Shared

Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.

Greetings to all.

I wish that Allah SWT will bless us with His Guidance and shower upon us His Mercy and accept our prayers and hopes for Peace!

Ya Allah ! Please strengthen our Iman and accept our amals! Ameen Ya Rabbal Alameen.
Apostasy @ Murtad is the hottest word in Malaysia nowadays!

I ask that those of us who are concerned about this subject to go through the facts and figures before us first and not to fall victim to gossips and rumour mongers especially about Murtad!

Malaysians speak about it day in, day out from the kampong warongs to the halls of Parliament!

People get so stressed out, tempers flare, itchy fingers just are raring to go lynch somebody because some idiot goes ahead and spreads a rumour that so and so has turned 'Murtad' and the Muslims get so pissed off because another 'murtad' makes the news and that there are the Christians who are so obsessed with getting as many Malays as they can into their fold as we hear!

Azhar Mansor and Lina Joy. Two names that come up whenever we hear anyone speaking of apostasy amongst the Malay Muslims here.

The former tries to pull a fast one by his evasive answers to the press whilst the latter has more 'balls' to state her intention and her position as a Murtad officially by applying to change her status on her identity card!

The thing I want to ask is about those who are Muslims in name only. MINO's.

What about them? Who gives a damn? What has anyone in authority done for those people who do not pray, do not practice Islam as they must, lead a life that is more devoid of any sense of worship to Allah and yet society thinks that they are true blue Muslims and leaves them be.

Well, that, my dear friends is a matter between Allah SWT and them.

Someone wrote to me asking why we need to be so bloody obsessed with apostates?

Why does Malaysia's Muslim Ummah make so much noise about Azhar Mansor and Lina Joy but do not give a damn about so many others who aren't celebrities or people in the news?

My answer here to him is that people just have no idea as to who the hell the apostates are!

If they knew, naturally, someone will blow the whistle on him or her and you'd have another Azhar Mansor or Lina Joy to go worry about!

No one knows for sure as to what some chap in some obscure area does or doesn't do, right?

We don't see a sign stating that so and so is a Murtad written on his or her forehead, right?

So, please..just let the people do what they want to and let them shoulder the consequences themselves!

For all the 'idealists' speaking as if you know it all, just spare us your drivel and go do something positive like trying to talk some sense with whomever you know is confused about Islam. That's so much more better than to have you speak through a blinkered view about it!

The New Straits Times has an article about the state of affairs regarding the number of apostasies that have taken place here in our lands.

I am sharing the report here with you.

Sunday Interview: Very few have abandoned the faith

19 Nov 2006
P. Selvarani

Recent claims that Muslims are converting to Christianity by the hundreds of thousands have caused much unrest among some Muslim groups. Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil, lecturer at UiTM’s Centre for Islamic Thought and Understanding, has spent nine years studying the problem of apostasy among Malaysian Muslims. He tells P. SELVARANI that the claims are false.

Q: Is it true that Muslims in the country are renouncing the religion by the hundreds of thousands, even as much as 250,000, as recently claimed by some quarters, including the Mufti of Perak?

A: I disagree with these figures given because there is no concrete data to support these claims.

Official data that I have obtained from the Syariah courts, State Religious Departments and the National Registration Department (NRD) show that the number of apostates among the Muslims is less than 300.

My research shows that 750 Muslims applied to the NRD to change their names to non-Muslim names between 1999 and July 2003, and of the number only 220 were successful. Most of them were converts to Islam.

But the number of Muslims who actually applied to the Syariah courts to renounce Islam is much lower — there were only 100 between 1994 and 2003.

Q: How did the talk about conversions of some 100,000 Muslims gain currency?

A: I really don’t know. It could have been based on rumours circulating on the Net or in other forms such as the SMS.

Apostasy is a serious matter in Malaysia. If there are those who claim that the figure runs into the hundreds of thousands, then they must show some concrete data to support their statements. You cannot rely on hearsay.

Such sensitive statements, which are unsubstantiated by facts, are dangerous as they can lead to chaos, more so when they come from community or religious leaders.

You must have concrete data otherwise how do you justify your statement? You can say so and so has changed his religion. How do you know? In a court of law, you have to prove it.

Legally, there must be a declaration from the Syariah court before a person can be deemed an apostate.

Q: What percentage of those who applied to renounce Islam are born Muslims?

A: The number of born Muslims who renounce Islam is very small. Most of the applicants are Muslim converts who decide to leave Islam upon dissolution of the marriage, or the death of their spouse.

The born Muslims who apply to renounce Islam are usually women who do it because of love — when they decide to marry someone of another faith.

In some isolated cases, children from mixed marriages (where one parent is a Muslim), or those who were born illegitimate, applied to renounce the religion.

Q: Your research shows that Negri Sembilan has the highest record of applications to renounce Islam (84 applications between 1994 and 2003) as well as the highest number of recorded renunciations (16 approvals). Why is this so?

A: Negri Sembilan is the only state which "allows" a Muslim to leave Islam subject to certain procedural conditions.

Under its Administration of Islamic Law Enactment 2003 (the new law), a Muslim cannot renounce or be deemed to have renounced Islam unless he has a declaration to the effect from the Syariah High Court of the state.

Other states do not have such a provision in their Syariah laws and that is why they do not receive any applications to renounce and even if they do, the number is very small because of their punitive laws.

Q: On what grounds are these applications in Negri Sembilan approved?

A: The applicant must specify the grounds for his application with a supporting affidavit. The Syariah court judge then adjourns the application for 90 days and refers the person to the Mufti for counselling.

If after 90 days the judge feels that such a person will not repent, he will then adjourn the hearing of the application for a period of up to a year, during which time the applicant is required to undergo a counselling session to reconsider his decision.

After this period, the judge can make a conclusion whether to declare the applicant an apostate or otherwise.

What I learnt from my research when I interviewed the NGOs was that they did not object to this counselling.

Q: How do the other states deal with this problem of apostasy among Muslims?

A: Perak, Malacca, Sabah and Terengganu have criminalised apostasy with fines not exceeding RM3,000 and/or imprisonment of not more than two years.

Pahang has the most deterrent law, where upon conviction, an apostate can be fined up to RM5,000 and/or imprisoned up to three years and could even get six strokes of the rotan.

In Sarawak, for example, applicants can go directly to the state’s Islamic Affairs Department, which will then certify their conversions from Islam upon determining that the person "irreconcilably seeks to renounce the religion".

These documents certifying that such a person is no longer a Muslim are considered valid by the NRD, which under the National Registration Regulations 1990 (amended 2001) could accept such declarations only from either the state Syariah courts or the Islamic Affairs Departments.

In some states, such as Kedah, applications to renounce Islam are rejected on the grounds that there is no provision under their Syariah laws for such applications to be heard.

The 12 applications received by the Federal Territories between 2001 and August 2003 were dismissed by the Syariah courts on the grounds that there were no provisions for its judges to decide for or against such cases.

Q: How should states handle these cases?

A: We should have a standard law on apostasy. Other states should follow Negri Sembilan because it has the counselling process to persuade those who have renounced to go back to Islam.

I give this recommendation based on what happens in Singapore. In Singapore, Muslims who want to renounce Islam must go to the Mufti’s office for counselling. Ninety per cent of the people referred to the Mufti repented and went back to Islam.

Why not we follow this method of counselling through persuasion instead of making it punitive to the point of creating resentment?

Q: What prompted you to undertake this research on the problem of apostasy in Malaysia?

A: I found that under the classical Islamic law, apostasy is a serious punishable offence but it contradicted the notion of freedom of religion as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

And the court cases filed by Muslims seeking to renounce Islam also sparked my interest.

I then decided to do a comparative analysis of Malaysia’s civil and Syariah laws on apostasy for my PhD thesis with the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

I submitted my thesis to the university last year.

End of report -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So, now that you have read the report by Dr.Azam, you should think about doing what you can for Dakwah to those concerned and to all others to avoid this problem getting any worse!

Any of you receiving an SMS or email saying this and that about someone becoming an apostate or murtad , please check with the authorities first and do not simply forward that sms or email for if some irrational fellow were to get so enraged and run amok, chopping up people because of that sms or email you forwarded to him, it is you who is held responsible for the bloodshed!

Exercise caution and verify the sources first. Even, if it is true, then the best thing for you to do is to inform your local Imam about it, then after verifying the matter, report to your local Balai Polis with proof.

The PDRM will then notify the Religious Department and they have their teams to handle the matter. Gathering a crowd and go lynching somebody is the last thing you must do.

Use your commonsense and realise that if you screw up by framing an innocent person, it is you who will feel the repercussions of false accusations and you can be sued by the victim and jailed by the authorities for committing slander and libel here on Earth!

In the Akhirat, you will be punished by Allah SWT for committing fitnah! Na'uzubillahi minzalik!

Wabillahi taufeek wal hidayah. Wassalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.