The Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) is urging the relevant authorities to respect the Orang Asli’s freedom of religion and solve the issue of “Islam” specified as the religion in the MyKads of those who are non-Muslims.
News portal The Malaysian Insight (TMI) reported on Monday (July 22) that authorities had added “Islam” to the identity cards of the Temiar Orang Asli in Gerik, Perak without their consent.
The Orang Asli are demanding that this is rectified.
Jakoa director-general Prof Dr Juli Edo said Jakoa viewed the reports seriously.
“This should not have happened because as Malaysian citizens, the Orang Asli have the right to freedom of religion as enshrined in the Federal Constitution,” he said.
He urged the relevant authorities to be mindful during the MyKad registration process and take the initiative to solve the issue and prevent it from repeating in the future.
Juli was reacting to TMI report that quoted Kg Sg Papan resident Anjang Aluej as saying that his fellow villagers were issued MyKad stating that they were Muslims by the National Registration Department (NRD), despite not having converted nor reciting the shahada (Muslim creed).
“We have never recited, there has never been an ustaz to witness a conversion to Islam,” Anjang told TMI on a recent visit to the village.
“All of a sudden, we find that we were registered as Muslims on our identity cards.”
Anjang also said the manner in which the NRD decided who was Muslim was confusing and not uniform.
For instance, he said, there were Orang Asli tribesmen whose identity cards did not state any religion – as is the case for non-Muslims – yet, ‘bin’ for men and ‘binti’ for women had been added to their names. These denote their status as Muslims.
In other cases, the NRD also failed to register their names accurately.
“They (the NRD) chose the names themselves. They do it as if we don’t have rights to our own identity,” said Anjang.
(L) Jamal Endi and (R) Anjang Aleuj.
“They have violated our rights as humans. They want to play God and determine our identities,” he added.
In Kg Sg Papan, which has 86 residents, every resident complained of similar problems with their MyKad.
Jamal Endi, another Temiar tribesman from Kg Ong Gelmol, said he is in a similar situation.
His identity card has ‘bin’ inserted into his name, even though he is not a Muslim.
Ordinarily, non-Muslim Orang Asli MyKads would use ‘anak’ (son of) in their names instead of ‘bin’.
He said his wife was also wrongly registered as a Muslim but since he was not, his child had been given the surname ‘Abdullah’ instead of Jamal.
“Hence my child was registered by the NRD as the child of Abdullah instead of Jamal,” he said.
He said he asked NRD officials but was told that this was because his wife’s status was Muslim.
“I don’t understand why my child became anak Abdullah instead of anak Jamal. My child’s father will be known as Abdullah, instead of Jamal,” he said.
Anjang added that even though the community is not against Islam, they felt that it was unfair to be forced to embrace the faith, especially if they had no intention of doing so.
“We do not say that Islam is wrong. Islam is the truth and the Orang Asli have a high reverence for the religion.
“However, conversion should be made with consent and not against our will. We should have the desire to embrace the faith ourselves. Others should not determine that,” he said.
Kg Sg Papan and Kg Ong Jelmol are among the five Orang Asli communities from Gerik that staged a protest in Parliament last Tuesday and handed over a memorandum to the prime minister.
Among the problems they highlighted was the “forced conversions” of their tribes to Islam.
Perak Jakoa director Khairul Nizam said a report on the Orang Asli’s claims of forced conversions have been submitted to the state department for further action.
Khairul told TMI that further engagement is needed because the issue involved other government agencies.
“On this issue of religion, we have to have a sit-down meeting to discuss the matter and report it to Jakoa headquarters.
“As it involves religion, it is sensitive and warrants further discussion. It is not limited to Jakoa alone, but involves other stakeholders.”
Last month, Juli slammed plans articulated by Kelantan Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (Maik) deputy chairperson Nik Mohd Azlan Abd Hadi to convert the indigenous people in the state to Islam.
“It is not right to take advantage of Orang Asli communities and trick them into religious conversions,” he told a press conference at the Jakoa annual general meeting on June 22.