[Buddha-l] Islam and forced conversion (Was Buddhists Taking a Stand Against Isllamophobia)

curt steinmetz curt at cola.iges.org
Wed Sep 26 13:55:44 MDT 2012

Quoting from the Malaysian Constitution on freedom of religion is like 
quoting from the old Soviet Constitution concerning freedom of speech.

Just this year Malaysia famously handed Hamza Kashgari over to the Saudi 
Authorities (and almost a year later Kashgari still languishes in a 
Saudi prison for the crime of tweeting some poetry about Muhammad). This 
act by Malaysian authorities was in direct violation of provisions in 
the Malaysian Constitution, according to prominent Malaysian civil 
rights attorneys. Anyone who is not aware of this infamous incident 
should not bother venturing an opinion on religious freedom in Malaysia.

Then there is the case of Lina Joy, who was officially denied permission 
to convert to Christianity in 2007 by the Malaysian Supreme Court, whose 
chief justice, Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, stated "You can’t at 
whim and fancy convert from one religion to another".

Also there is the small matter that Malaysia has two legal systems, one 
of them run directly by Muslim clerics. This creates a Catch-22: if a 
civil court grants a person permission to convert from Islam to another 
religion, that person automatically falls under the jurisdiction of the 
Sharia courts for the Islamic crime of apostasy!


On 9/26/2012 2:25 PM, Gerald McLoughlin wrote:
> Curt,
> Both statements would be highly contested in reference to both civil and religious law across the Islamic world. In the various religious law traditions what apostasy is (must it include some sort of specific act, like treason, against  Muslims, for example) and should/can it be punished still generate heated controversy.
>   Each  country is different, of course, but since you cite Malaysia:
> Malaysian  law as I understand it, says that you cannot formally convert before the age of majority, 18 by federal law, 15 in some states. You have no automatic right to receive religious instruction in a religion other than your father' s before that age. You are listed under your father's religion until then.  After that age it is up to you. Since Islam is defined as essential to Malay identity you have to be Muslim to be Malay which has great benefits under their version of affirmative action. If you convert you presumably lose that ethnic identity. I am not sure what identity you could pick up if any. As you can imagine this is all pretty controversial in Malaysia.
> In the most populous Muslim majority state, neighboring Indonesia, I do remember the pre-democracy state ideology which established the main religions, such as Buddhism, specifically  because they all believed in the same presumably Abrahamic God. Ethnic Chinese Buddhists decided not to argue the definition of Buddhism.
> Now I am really back to Buddhism,
> Gerald McLoughlin
> On Sep 26, 2012, at 12:36 PM, curt steinmetz <curt at cola.iges.org> wrote:
>> Even if we were to allow, for the sake of argument, that there have been no forced conversions of non-Muslim populations in the history of Islam, still there is the uncontested situation with respect to criminalization of "apostasy", to this day, throughout the Muslim world.
>> And let's be precise about what is meant here by the "Muslim world", which in this context refers to all those nations in which Islam has the legal status of official state religion -- and this applies not only to places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, but also very much to moderate or even "secular" nations such as Morocco and Malaysia.
>> In all these Muslim societies a person born to Muslim parents is legally Muslim from birth. And once one is a Muslim, leaving the Muslim religion is a criminal act (and in most cases at least potentially a capital crime).
>> In other words, the vast majority of all of the world's Muslims are, in no uncertain terms, the direct victims of forced conversion, since they are forced into Islam from the moment of birth are are forcibly required to remain Muslim throughout their lives or face penalties up to death.
>> And a great many Muslims fully support this status quo, including large (<70%) majorities in countries like Egypt and Pakistan who favor putting apostates to death.
>> The question of how religions spread, and how Islam has spread in particular, is of great importance to the study of the history of Buddhism.
>> Curt
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