Leaving Islam in Malaysia…


Renouncing Islam in Malaysia Is Dangerous. We Spoke to Those Who Did It.

We spoke to ex-Muslims in Malaysia about their “double lives.”


By Heather Chen

Religion remains one of modern Malaysia’s most sensitive topics, especially when it comes to Islam, the country’s official faith practiced by more than 60 percent of the population.

Though the constitution enshrines freedom of worship, renouncing Islam—also often referred to as apostasy—is practically unheard of among the country’s Malay Muslim population. 

“The government’s stand is that one cannot leave Islam if he or she was born Muslim,” Nizam Bashir, a Kuala Lumpur-based human rights lawyer, told VICE World News. 

While not a federal crime, religious courts have broad jurisdiction over apostasy and conversion, and punishments vary from state to state. Those who attempt to leave Islam are often persecuted by religious police, jailed or sent to rehabilitation facilities. Muslim leaders in the Southeast Asian country also continue to warn their followers of dire consequences should they decide to abandon their faith.

“Malaysia calls itself a modern and forward-thinking country but atheists and ex-Muslims remain in hiding over fear of violence and death threats,” said Armin Navabim, a vocal religious activist from Iran who monitors religious freedom issues worldwide

Tensions have also been on the rise lately, with hardline police crackdowns being launched into alleged apostasy cases.

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