SIS: Recognise freedom to change faith

The Islamic NGO condemns the attacks on PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, and points out that faith by compulsion may lead to hypocrisy.

Leven Woon, FMT

Freedom of religion as a right enshrined under the Federal Constitution must also recognise the freedom to change faith, said Sisters In Islam (SIS).

Rallying behind PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar’s call for freedom of religion for all, the NGO said faith in any religion was based on free will.

“How can Muslims demand this notion of religious freedom for those wishing to convert to Islam and at the same time argue the denial of this freedom to leave Islam?

“Faith by compulsion may lead to hypocrisy,” SIS said in a statement.

The Muslim women rights advocate maintained a strong position against legislation of faith, saying that such practice was meaningless.

“Islam itself means submission to the will of God – not the will of men. The willing submission of the self to faith and belief must therefore be attained through conviction and reason of the individual, not by coercion and duress.

“This is clearly mentioned in the Quran, Surah Yunus 10:99, ‘And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed – all of them entirely. Then would you compel the people in order that they become believers?’,” SIS added.

The organisation also condemned the attacks against Nurul over the latter’s remark made during a forum last week, pointing out that it reflected the shrinking of democratic space for civil public discussion.

It noted that Malaysians were routinely reprimanded or attacked for raising issues pertaining to freedom of religion even though the right was enshrined in Article 11 of Federal Constitution.

It said problems and conflicts would always arise in a multi-religious society like Malaysia, such as non-Muslims who convert to Islam without resolving their duties to their earlier non-Muslim marriage and born-Muslims who never led a Muslim life as they were raised by non-Muslim families.

There are also cases where one converts spouses to Islam unilaterally and coercively and born-Muslims who wish to leave Islam out of their free will.

“There have been court judgments allowing Muslim converts to leave Islam.

“The Administration of the Religion of Islam (Negeri Sembilan) Enactment 2003 contains legal procedures by which one may do so,” it added.

SIS noted that the Quran was explicit and consistent in its recognition of freedom of religion.