By Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi
Are we to maintain our silence and do nothing in the face of the evangelical onslaught?
First they attacked the then Selangor exco Hassan Ali. Then they went for ustaz Nasharuddin Mat Isa − the PAS deputy president at the material time.
More recently, they tried to gun down UUM senior lecturer cum Iksim fellow Dr Kamarul Zaman Yusoff. Now they’ve got a think-tank CEO, Centhra’s Azril Mohd Amin, in their crosshairs.
All of the men mentioned above have one major thing in common. They bravely exposed the sinister agenda of certain Christian individuals and evangelical groups to convert Malays out of Islam.
Why are the evangelicals so defensive if these bold revelations are untrue?
Paderi Melayu itu berkata, “Dalam tempoh bertahun-tahun ini, kami telah murtadkan ramai orang Melayu supaya… https://t.co/6UvbsFu9ER
— menara.my (@menaradotmy) June 15, 2017
Hope or ‘Harapan’ springs eternal to harvest Malay souls
In September 2010, Utusan Malaysia reported that one Malay pastor, Benjamin Stephen, is a Muslim apostate from Johor.
A few days ago, news portal Menara.my brought to light the actions of a Malay man ‘Vicotr’ in Johor who is an evangelical activist.
This ex-Muslim – now a pastor allegedly affiliated with the International Christian Association – spoke of his ‘joy’ in actively saving souls and bringing fellow Malays to the true faith of Jesus.
Before that, the same Menara investigative team also unearthed the case of a Malay family in Kedah who have been converted to Christianity more than four years.
Such missionary work flies in the face of our federal constitution and laws prohibiting Christians from preaching to Muslims.
Hence Centhra’s public policy advocate Azril urged that new anti-evangelicalism laws be enacted.
His suggestion was platformed by Utusan and managed to spook the usual suspects. The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) was quick to denounce the proposal.
⇓ ‘Hope’ … NECF ever defiant in making their clarion call
Christian religious freedom is not absolute
Previously those proselytizing the Christian faith to Muslims could be detained under ISA.
Although the preventive detention law has since been repealed, it is nevertheless permissible under Article 11(4) of the federal constitution for states to enact laws restricting propagation of Christianity among Muslims.
In Selangor, this law takes the form of the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Amongst Muslims) Enactment 1988.
Further, Article 11(5) allows for restriction on religious freedom in the name of public order, public health or morality.
Various laws prohibiting the conversion of Muslims in all states – save the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak – were spurred by the arrest of Pastor Joshua Jamaluddin.
Joshua, a Johorean Malay from Muar and former Muslim by his birth name of Jamaluddin Othman, became the catalyst for these prohibitive legislation when he was detained under Ops Lalang in 1987.
Oh, will Azrul please shut up already!
Needless to say, the evangelicals are now trying to tarnish Azril’s reputation in a way similar to their earlier all out verbal assault on Dr Kamarul.
Just like the “biggest hypocrite” Hannah Yeoh (whose party proclaims itself the champion of secularism), the same set of Malay liberals are being predictably hypocritical about this very serious issue.
As only to be expected, the ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ Azrul Mohd Khalib is once again insisting that Iksim, Centhra and Isma are basing their arguments on pure bigotry. He told off these Muslim NGOs, chiding that they “should stop shooting their mouths off”.
LGBT flagbearer Azrul is convinced that the insecure Isma, suspicious Iksim and scaredy cat Centhra always “see bogeymen and enemies everywhere”.
On top of implying that his bugbear Malay conservatives are arrogant and contemptuous of non-Muslims, Azrul accuses them moreover of feeding an “irrational fear and paranoia” among the ummah.
Chameleon preachers and their multiform camouflage
Meanwhile, self-proclaimed ‘Islamologist’ Farouk A. Peru wrote a characteristically insulting screed lambasting Centhra’s Azril.
For that matter, Farouk believes the Islamists do not possess the required intellectual capacity to provide counter arguments to the evangelicals.
He misses the point, however, that laws are meant to be adhered to, period. This is regardless of one’s IQ level.
“The evangelical traits have never by themselves yielded cohesive, institutionally compact, or clearly demarcated groups of Christians. Since its origins, evangelicalism has always been diverse, ﬂexible, adaptable, and multiform,” — Pastor Joshua Woo (quoting historian Mark Noll)
NOTE: Joshua Woo is a Penang councillor with the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP)
⇓ “Adaptable”? “Multi-form”? Hmm, sounds like the Penang pastor is describing Hannah ‘Hallelujah’ Yeoh
China thwarts its Christians through legal means
The present laws are not enough. Who could forget, for example, how evangelicals thumbed their noses at the ban on use of the term ‘Allah’.
It is in this context that newer and more stringent laws have been enacted elsewhere around the world including in non-Muslim nations such as Russia with its Yarovaya Act and Singapore with its Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act − both cited by Azril in his Utusan essay.
Various other nations have had, at some point in their history, at least a prohibition in place against the often overzealous manner in which Christian evangelicalism operates.
One such instance is China. During the Ming dynasty period, Christian missionary activity was outlawed when the same was found to be incompatible with the dominant Confucian ideology.
This prohibition was continued by the succeeding Qing dynasty. The Jiaqing emperor (1814 CE) even added a clause referencing Christianity to the Qing legal code on ‘Wizards, Witches, and All Superstitions’ under which those caught evangelizing were to be strangled to death or disposed as slaves to Muslim leaders and beys in punishment.
Other countries besides Russia, Singapore and China have passed laws prohibiting unauthorised Christian evangelicalism. In Nigeria, its 12 Muslim-majority states prohibit evangelism to be conducted upon Muslims.
More examples include Belarus, Cuba and Mexico that are themselves Catholic-majority but fearful of the imported virulent evangelism.
Unlawful, unacceptable, is why they must be kept in check
Dapsters are demanding Azril’s head (pix above) for sedition because he dared to call out the evangelicals as a “dangerous movement” that needs to be checked.
In truth, he is merely suggesting laws that are already established in countries confronted by the threat of evangelism.
More often than not, evangelists tend to come into conflict with local cultures and practices of spiritual beliefs already ensconced. Hence they are indeed socially disruptive if not downright dangerous.
Even non-Muslims such as Parti Cinta Malaysia vice president Huan Cheng Guan and former Hindu Sangam president A. Subramaniam have indicated that Buddhists and Hindus are extremely uneasy at the unethnical as well as indecent manner in which these evangelicals operate.
We cannot permit Christian evangelicals to dictate the terms of our national narrative on their covert missionary activities.
They want to shut down public debate on their clearly unlawful and unacceptable proselytization. We mustn’t let them.
Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi is a lawyer and activist