Malaysian Citizens Outraged Over Recent Religious Conversions

The 32 million people who call Malaysia home represent a tapestry of faiths and cultures. But a so-called “unilateral conversion” to Islam, in which one parent converts a child’s faith without the other’s consent, is on the rise in multi-ethnic Asian nations.

As the number of Islamist extremists speaking out grows, this issue has become yet another flashpoint in the struggle for minority rights.

Over 60% of the population identifies as Muslim Malay, with a quarter identifying as Chinese. Indians and other indigenous peoples make up sizable minority populations.

Although the groups coexist peacefully for the most part, others argue that the country’s moderate Islam is slowly but surely becoming more radicalized due to decades of policies that have favored the Malays.

Opponents claim that the country’s moderate form of Islam is losing ground to rising extremism as a result of decades of policies that have favored Malays. Human rights groups claim that parental lawsuits are the primary means by which cases of unilateral conversion are brought to light. 

Recent efforts by Islamists to convert youngsters to their faith have disturbed multi-religious Malaysia.

Firdaus Wong, a contentious preacher, made a TikTok video in which he advised a man on how to approach curious teenagers about Islam. In response, MCCBCHST, an organization that represents all other religions, urged the Malaysian government and religious authorities to investigate allegations of covert Muslim student conversions.

Specifically, Wong’s video showed him having a conversation with a man—possibly a religious leader—about what a student should do if they want to become an Islamist. 

Wong suggested that the pupil recite the “Kalimah Syahadah” to informally convert and postpone the registration of “official conversion” until the age of 18. Wong made the contentious suggestion that we do not document kids’ conversions on television or in any other way, which might lead to parents not knowing about their children’s choices.

The MCCBCHST immediately responded by strongly criticizing Wong’s proposals, describing them as “immoral, unconstitutional, and illegal.”

The issue has reached parliament.

Notably, Hassan Karim, a Muslim congressman from the party of incumbent Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, brought up the matter in the Malaysian parliament, acknowledging that Wong’s conduct had caused concern among Malaysians who are not Muslims.