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Non-Muslims demand: Muslims must be allowed to quit Islam!
Tuesday, April 19 2005@ 16:48:54 MYT

By BAHARUDDEEN ABU BAKAR

If ever there was any doubt that non-Muslims want to give Muslims the ‘right’ to reject Islam, Sdr. Harcharan Singh has now confirmed it, whether or not Islam allows it. And the organization that is going to be given the powers by non-Muslims to allow Muslims to renounce Islam is the proposed ‘inter-faith commission’ (IFC).

Sdr. Harcharan Singh is, incidentally, the President of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism (MCCBCHS) It is the organization which prepared, and sent to friends in the Human Rights Sub-committee of the Bar Council, a Memorandum full of non-Muslim ‘grievances’ and ‘complaints’ against Islam and Islamic authorities centred on the Islamic teaching that apostasy is a serious, punishable wrong. The MCCBCHS is a co-promoter, with the Bar Council, of the proposed commission. For obvious reasons, so far the public has only been drip-fed inspirational comment in the Press about the IFC. Representatives of ACCIN (Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs) who at one time attended meetings with the organizers of the I F C were given bare-faced denials by Sdr. Harcharan Singh and friends that the IFC would deal with such matters at all. This was to ensure ACCIN’s attendance, at least, at their forthcoming national conference to endorse the IFC. As a ‘legitimizing event’ it would lose its credibility if the main Muslim organizations stayed away.

He has now unabashedly revealed not only the real objects of the IFC but also the attitude of the organizers towards Islam. This is clear from the answers given by Sdr. Harcharan Singh to leading questions by Jocelyn Lee of The Sun (Jan. 29-30 2005) in an extensive interview to build up public support for the IFC as the national conference to publicize it draws near.

According to the draft bill prepared by the organizers (not the Government), the commission, comprising Muslims and non-Muslims, will have the power to hear and resolve complaints and disputes, for instance applications by Muslims to quit Islam, and decide whether or not the Muslim should be allowed to do so. To Sdr. Singh Muslim apostasy is a non-issue: “If they can convert in other countries, why can’t they convert here. It’s not a religious requirement!”

The IFC would bypass the existing Islamic administration bodies, and take over the powers of Their Highnesses the Malay Rulers as Heads of Islam in their respective states and of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in the federal territories. This alone is enough to make it unconstitutional. Sdr. Singh talks about their meetings with Their Highnesses the Malay Rulers and important politicians. It would be interesting to know what assurances they were given.

Seven times during the interview Sdr. Singh referred to the ‘problems’ arising from conversion to Islam which in his view take 2 forms: 1) the difficulties faced by converts to Islam wishing to leave the faith; and 2) the repercussions on their (non-Muslim) families. Amidst ‘sighs’ and ‘head shakes’ carefully noted by Jocelyn Lee for our understanding of a sincere champion of religious freedom exasperated by Muslims and their official religious bodies, he is reported to have said: “And, in this country now,…where a person changes their religion to become a Muslim for marriage…when the marriage has not taken place, there is no way the person can come back to either original religion or some other religion.”(sic)

Jocelyn Lee did not ask and, of course, Sdr. Singh does not talk about his right or locus standi as a Sikh to concern himself to such an extent with the ‘right’ of a Muslim, convert or born to the faith, to renounce his religion. He refers to Article 11 of the Federal Constitution several times in other contexts, but does not talk about it as it applies to him as a champion of religious freedom. It says: “Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion….” The question is only for Muslims, the Syariah and the appropriate, lawfully-constituted Islamic body to resolve, as Sdr. Singh has been made aware several times: “They said, no, no, no. Once the person becomes a Muslim, it is an intra-religious issue. So you should not interfere.” And, indeed, he shouldn’t.

If a non-Muslim complains about Muslims not having the ‘right’ to apostatize that is clearly an interference, going beyond his right to practice his own religion, and unconstitutional. Indeed, Islam and Article 11 of the Constitution give his religion the same protection from interference by others: “You have your own religion and I have mine.” (Surah Al-Kafirun) The absence of any constitutional basis for his championing the cause of would-be murtads, for that matter, the absence of any Islamic permission to renounce the religion does not seem to faze him at all. He simply resorts to ‘seat of the pants’ assertiveness: “If someone wants to become Muslim, welcome. But if someone wants to leave Islam voluntarily, there shouldn’t be any impediment. There should not be one-way traffic.”(sic)

With that answer Sdr. Singh has indeed betrayed one of the historic, visceral and worst frustrations, and cause of anger, of non-Muslims with Islam, and real reason for non-Muslim championing of apostasy; it is nothing more than vindictiveness. All religions lose out to Islam; a non-Muslim may become a Muslim but a Muslim cannot become a non-Muslim. However, the reason for non-Muslim defeat is in their own religions. Non-Muslim religions allow their followers to quit, and so they do; Islam does not, so unsurprisingly there is no burden on Muslims to facilitate it! It would be hypocritical of non-Muslims on the one hand to boast of the freedom allowed by their religions to quit, and feel bitter where a follower does so. I can understand their chagrin (though not justified) particularly where a non-Muslim chooses Islam rather any other religion for then there can be no give- and- take of followers!

As Islam does not allow its followers to quit it, no Islamic organization, governmental or NGO, has taken it upon itself to facilitate apostasy. Sdr. Singh discovered this but does not want to accept it: “At the moment, it’s very bad because we are facing a wall! Because we don’t know where to go. Because when there is a conversion, no body seems to take responsibility.” Why should we? Does any religion have an institutionalized procedure for its adherents to quit?

Interestingly, not a single question was asked by Jocelyn Lee about problems among the followers of non-Muslim religions though these are not unknown. In fact, the original reason for Dr. Chandra Muzaffar suggesting the setting up of the IFC was to resolve problems arising from aggressive preaching by Christians among non-Muslims.

It is indeed sad and ironic that just as the MCCBCHS is championing religious freedom for Muslims, whom it does not represent, there are unresolved problems within the ranks of non-Muslims whom it represents. Dato’ Vaithilingam President of the Malaysian Hindu Sangam, resigned in January 2005 from the MCCBCHS exco in protest against “the unethical methods”, “lies and falsehoods” about Hinduism perpetrated by Christians to gain converts. According to their website, the Hindus may withdraw or have withdrawn from the MCCBCHS. Shouldn’t the Hindu leader’s complaint be the first case for the IFC?

 

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