New Malaysia rule on Islamic conversion
By JULIA ZAPPEI
Malaysia will soon require non-Muslims to inform their family before converting to Islam, a move welcomed Friday by minority religious groups who said it will help ease ethnic and interfaith tensions.
The planned rule is aimed at preventing the kind of religious disputes that have frequently erupted in this multireligious country after the death of ethnic Chinese or Indian converts. In many cases families were unaware of the conversions, and were angered when Islamic authorities seized the bodies for Muslim burial.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced after meeting Islamic authorities Thursday that the government wanted to avoid such controversies.
"If people want to convert, there is nothing wrong, why must they hide?" he was quoted as saying by The Star daily.
Anger over religious discrimination, including the destruction of Hindu temples by the state, partly led to the ruling National Front coalition's heavy losses in last month's general elections.
Abdullah said Muslim converts would have to produce documents stating they had told their family members. He didn't say when the new rule will come into force.
"We do not want the religious department saying the deceased was a Muslim but the family members disputing it because he or she converted on the quiet," Abdullah was quoted by the national news agency Bernama as saying.
Abdullah's aides could not immediately be reached Friday.
Minority religious groups cautiously welcomed the announcement.
"It's a move in the right direction," said A. Vaithilingam, president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism. But he expressed caution about the policy before knowing "the real details."
1) New Malaysia rule on Islamic conversion