Ex-Perlis mufti backs Nurul Izzah, says ‘no compulsion in Islam’

(The Malaysian Insider) – There is no compulsion in Islam, popular Islamic scholar Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has said in his defence of PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar who has been under attack from Umno-linked conservative Muslim groups over her recent remark on the subject of faith — a hot button topic in mainly Malay-Muslim Malaysia.

The still influential former Perlis mufti was weighing in on the controversy that has erupted following the PKR vice president’s statement at a public forum on “Islamic State: Which version, Whose Responsibility?” in Subang Jaya last Saturday, with several religious hawks suggesting that her remarks meant she supported Muslims renouncing Islam and turning “murtad” or apostate.

“After hearing her explanation, I understand what she meant. The no compulsion is from the aspect of practice in the religion of Islam.

“If truly there were compulsion, this country’s government would certainly take action against a Muslim individual, for example a Muslim woman who does not wear the tudung (headscarf),” he told Malay daily Sinar Harian.

The Univesiti Sains Malaysia (USM) lecturer told the newspaper he had written an article two years ago titled “Iman Tidak Boleh Dipaksa (Faith Cannot be Forced)”, and added that the content was “the same” as what Nurul Izzah had stated.

“Malays cannot be forced and [they] believe voluntarily. But, through preaching, a person can be brought back to the faith,” he was quoted as saying.

Mohd Asri was also reported saying that Nurul Izzah’s initial remark could have been misconstrued because it was not explained in detail.

He added the first-term federal lawmaker had contacted him to help explain to the public her statement and that he agreed with her remarks that there was no compulsion in Islam.

The Lembah Pantai MP, who is expected to defend her parliamentary seat in the coming 13th general election, was reported by state news agency Bernama as saying that no one should be compelled to adopt a particular religion and that this applied to Malays as well.

Following the outcry, she has been forced to deny that she was supporting apostasy or encouraging Muslims to renounce Islam.

Race and religion issues are inseparable in Malaysia, where the Malays — who make up 60 per cent of the 28 million population — are constitutionally defined to also be Muslims.

The country’s supreme law states that Islam is the religion of the federation but also provides for other religions to be practised freely.