Rights body hails Jakoa for standing up for Orang Asli religious beliefs

The Kelantan Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIK) has announced a plan to convert all the Orang Asli within its state borders to Islam by 2049. (Peka pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) has welcomed a statement by the Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) that everyone has the right to their beliefs and this must be respected.

It said it condemned any attempt by those who sought to exploit the vulnerable Orang Asli community and coaxed them to convert.

“This fundamental right to religious freedom is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution, our highest law of the land,” Proham secretary-general Ivy Josiah and its chairman, Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, said in a statement today.

Jakoa director-general Juli Edo was reported today as stating that it is not right for people to take advantage of the Orang Asli communities and trick them into religious conversions.

Juli Edo reiterated that while Islam is the official religion of the federation, non-Muslims are free to practise their respective religions.

“Non-Muslims are free to choose their religion. Let that choice be up to the individuals.”

Juli Edo.

Proham said Article 11 states that every person has the right to profess and practise his religion.

Article 11 (3) furthermore guarantees that every religious group has the right:

(a) to manage its own religious affairs;

(b) to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and,

(c) to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.

Proham said it was disconcerting that the Kelantan Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIK) had announced a plan to convert all the Orang Asli within its state borders to Islam by 2049.

“It is equally alarming to note that an academic institution such as Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia is joining hands to convert the Orang Asli community to Islam.

“Surely religious conversion programmes are not the mandate of academic institutions?”

The NGO said it was sad that these institutions are dismissive of the religious and spiritual beliefs and practices of the Orang Asli that define their very identity.

“Freedom of religion has been a contentious, if not a divisive, issue in Malaysia.

“Proham urges the government to uphold and integrate this principle into its reform agenda.”

Proham congratulated the newly-appointed Juli Edo and hoped that the department charged with the welfare of Orang Asli continues to protect and speak up for the rights of the Orang Asli.