As many as 137 indigenous people in Malaysia have sued the state to court because they feel they were forced to embrace Islam 30 years ago. Photo/via Malaysiakini
KUALA LUMPUR – A total of 137 indigenous people in Malaysia sued the state to court, asking that their status as adherents of Islam be revoked.
Hundreds of indigenous people—referred to in Malaysia as Orang Asli—are suspected of having undergone illegal mass conversions 30 years ago. The natives come from the Bateq Mayah ethnic group.
On September 28 last year, 137 plaintiffs filed a subpoena at the Kuala Lumpur High Court through law firm Fahri Azzat & Co.
The Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa), its directors and officers, the Pahang Malay Religious and Customary Council (Muip), the state government, and the federal government are named as defendants in the civil suit.
According to the plaintiff’s statement seen by Malaysiakini, they alleged that the wrongful and illegal religious conversion was carried out at their home in Kampung Benchah Kelubi, Merapoh, Kuala Lipis, Pahang, in April 1993.
The plaintiffs allege that in early 1993, a Jakoa representative asked two village heads not only to convert to Islam but also persuaded other villagers to do the same.
They claim that when the villagers refused, a department official went to the village and threatened them repeatedly until they converted.
Some of these threats included forbidding villagers from remaining in the village, destroying their homes and crops, and chasing and torturing them if they fled to the mountains.
The plaintiffs argued that the villagers were not informed of the legal ramifications of converting to Islam, including the fact that they would be subject to Pahang’s Islamic legal system and that any children they had would be Muslims by default.
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