Sabah Christians meet today in bid to reverse conversions to Islam
Feb 4: Amid rising religious tension in Malaysia, Christian interest groups in Sabah are meeting today to find ways to reverse the conversion of 64 natives who claimed they were tricked into converting to Islam last month.
The Malaysian Insider learnt that a lunch meeting in Kota Kinabalu on the matter will be chaired by United Pasokmomogun Kadazan Dusun Murut Organisation (Upko) president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.
Upko is part of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition but a source told The Malaysian Insider the meeting transcends political beliefs.
“Christians from both sides of the political divide, non-governmental organisations and a group of lawyers are banding together to help fellow Christians in trouble,” the source said.
The 64, including children as young as five, are from three remote villages, Kampung Layung Maliau, Dowokon and Sosop.
They alleged they were they were tricked into converting to Islam for a mere RM100.
Thirty-three from Kampung Layung Maliau, who were among those converted, had said a fellow villager, on returning from Pitas town on New Year’s eve, told them that “some people from Kuala Lumpur” were giving financial assistance of RM800 which they had to collect in the town hall.
When they reached the town hall the next day to collect the promised assistance, they claimed they were instead asked to go to a nearby mosque where their particulars were taken and they were asked to place their thumbprint on a piece of paper.
All 33 are illiterate, with most of them being farmers.
The villagers had told The Malaysian Insider earlier that after they were processed, they were told to stand in a line and recite “some foreign words” after an imam.
It was after reciting the words that they were told they had been converted. A police report on the conversion was lodged a week later.
This allegation, however, was denied by Sabah Islamic authorities who had said that they merely carried out their religious duties and the paperwork which followed, but did not trick, coerce or persuade any Christian native to convert.
An official from the state Islamic Affairs Department said all the arrangements were handled by Muslim groups which had approached the department with a list of names from the three villages who were said to be interested in converting to Islam.
“They (Muslim groups) arranged everything. The religious officers were only there for conversion and registration purposes,” the official had told The Malaysian Insider.
Lawyers have said although it was not an offence in Malaysia for a Muslim to convert a person of a different faith into Islam, the authorities, however, could investigate the case for criminal elements if the claims of bribery, as the villagers alleged, were true.
source: The Malaysian Insider