Sabah minister investigates alleged attempt to convert student to Islam
Desmond Davidson Updated 3 hours ago · Published on 25 Jan 2020 7:00AM · 1 Comments
MALAYSIA must end the subtle attempts by Islamic groups to convert students at schools and varsities, said a Sabah politician seeking to meet Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad over the long-standing issue.
State Education and Innovation Assistant Minister Jenifer Lasimbang told The Malaysian Insight that she is investigating an Iban woman’s claim that her daughter was offered money to convert to Islam.
Academic: Sabah parents refuse govt pre-schools, fear conversion
Sean Augustin – November 18, 2017 10:00 PM 1.5k Shares
PETALING JAYA: An academic has discovered that native Christians in Sabah, especially those in the rural areas, are reluctant to send their children to government-run pre-school programmes as they fear the students would be converted.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) principal research fellow Denison Jayasooria revealed that a study he is currently working on, shows that the native Christians in such areas would opt to send their children to pre-schools set up either by churches or private entities.
His study, which revolves around faith-based communities, is expected to be completed early next year.
“There are two factors for their decision. One they want their mother tongue to be taught and the other was the fear the children, at such a young age, might be forced to convert under pressure,” he told reporters on the sidelines after a talk at the Malaysia Freedom Summit earlier today.
Jayasooria said he had learned of this particular concern from discussions with local leaders.
However, he clarified that the local leaders had not revealed any specific incidents that sparked such fears.
Jayasooria then said there needs to be greater sensitivity especially when a majority of the civil servants come from one religion and one ethnicity and are sent to a place where there is a different make-up.
60% of Malaysian Christians are natives of Sabah and Sarawak.
“Local administrators and civil servants need to be extremely sensitive to the religion, culture, language and ethnicity of the dominant group in the area.”
Issues of students in Sabah, which is home to a sizeable Christian population, converting to Islam is not new.
In 2015, controversy broke after reports surfaced that a Christian student had embraced Islam and donned a headscarf without her parents’ knowledge.
It was alleged that she was influenced by the school’s former hostel warden during her board.
However, the state education department denied any wrongdoing by the school or any teacher involved, claiming the student had wanted to convert on her own accord.
A year before, a Labuan church group claimed that “active conversion attempts were nothing new” at a matriculation college on the island off Sabah.
Lawyers urge Mahathir to ban students’ religious conversion
Published on: Friday, January 17, 2020 By: David Thien
KOTA KINABALU: Non-Muslim lawyers feel it is time for the Education Ministry, now that it is under Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to issue a directive once and for all forbidding the conversion of students to whatever religion in schools. A Sabahan lawyer who has been engaged to handle the latest alleged conversion of a Christian student to Islam said she was also contacted by Catholic lawyers in peninsula and Sarawak, who were concerned about the recurrences of such incidents. “This is not the first reported case,” said Priscilla Ruth Marcus, who has been engaged by the parents of the boy in Kota Marudu in the latest incident, to refer the matter to the courts.
Parents Vilbon bin Madilan and Wastinah Mangis have decided to sue the relevant authorities over the conversion of their son, the eldest in a family of five, by an Ustaz posted to the school. “My clients’ instruction is to challenge the validity of the conversion of their son. He is still a minor,” Priscilla said. “The parents were unaware of the conversion. They were shattered when they found out. In the past, two teachers from the peninsula in SMK Lutong in Miri, Sarawak, converted a 13-year-old student to Islam. “The Education Ministry acted to end the episode as any attempt to convert any child below 18 years to whatever religion without the parents’ consent is illegal. “The girl involved came from a Christian family which had angered the predominantly Christian community in Sarawak.”
A similar controversy arose in SMK Kinarut in Sabah when a 16-year-old schoolgirl reportedly was converted to Islam. The then Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said their inquiry showed the girl was still a Christian and had not converted although she practised the Islamic ways. Her father, Jilius Yapoo, correctly insisted that his daughter remained a Christian and can only decide on her own religion after she turns 18. The cases appear to reinforce fears among parents of the rural Christian communities in both Sabah and Sarawak over what might happen if they send their children to schools with hostel facilities. Away from home, the parents need to be reassured that their children are going for an education and not a new religion. While it may be natural for teachers, especially those who are religious, to share their beliefs with their students, the parents viewed this is as a form of indoctrination.
They said the teachers’ responsibility is to teach, and in the case of the hostel students, to also care for their well-being as these young students were away from home. The children are still considered minors and the law is very clear that their religion is determined by their parents until they turn 18. It is also a violation of the Child Protection Act.