Conversions humiliate the Orang Asli community

Conversions humiliate the Orang Asli community

PUCHONG: Conversion activities of the Orang Asli community is not merely limited to Kelantan but also involves other states. Even worse is the fact that it is humiliates the Orang Asli.

“Many Orang Asli people have been converted in Kelantan Perak, Pahang and Selangor by the relevant agencies with the cooperation of the Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa),” said activist Tijah Yok Chopil to The Leaders Online.

Tijah is a coordinator of the Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Villages Network (JKOASM) who highlighted the sad state of the native people during Suaram’s human rights report launch last month.

“The Orang Asli community have their own faith which is the original natural faith.  It creates harmony among the humankind and nature.  Converting the indigenous people to Islam is an action that humiliates them,” she said.

She also revealed how the Muslim preachers generally regard the community.

“They regard the Orang Asli akin to animals without god.  They don’t trust the jungles and don’t know anything but believe that they are the best to the extent that they have the right to change and reshape the Orang Asli.”

She said this in response to the Kelantan Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (Maik) aim to convert the entire Orang Asli population within the next 30 years-time, by 2049.

Maik deputy chairman Nik Mohd Azlan Abdul Hadi claimed that 5,000 out of the 16,000 natives have already embraced Islam.

“If we can convert 500 of them to Islam within a year, God willing, all Orang Asli people in the state will be Islamised in 30 years,” he said.

“We are planning a comprehensive proselytization with the help of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia,” he added.

He also revealed the tree modules that would be used in converting the Orang Asli community.  The first module would be profiling Muslim and non – Muslim Orang Asli individuals.

The second module is on proselytization streamlining and the third, preparations for the Islamic preachers on best methods to proselytize to the native community.

Tijah further reminded that embracing a faith is an individual right.

She also spoke of more pressing issues that needs to be addressed for the community instead of conversions to Islam.

“What is needed is not the Islamic faith but rather permanent recognition of our native land and territory.  This is necessary to assuage fears and concerns over land grab and trespass.

“A comprehensive basic development that is sustainable and of high quality is also necessary with an economic system that can remove the society from poverty.

She also said that the Orang Asli villages in Kelantan were lacking in terms of the necessary development.

“Currently most of the Orang Asli villages there are undeveloped.  There is a lack of basic facilities and the economic activities are paralysed due to the destruction of the nature that is caused by logging, plantations, mining and other activities.”

“When you go to the interiors of Kelantan, there are many Muslim communities who are all covered up but the roads in the villages are dusty red roads. Even the walls of their houses are covered in red dust.”

“They don’t even know about their new faith (Islam).  Some of them still consume pork,” she said.

In short, she said that what has befell the Orang Asli community in Malaysia is a form of colonialism.

“What has happened to the Orang Asli all this while is the worst form of colonialism both physically and spiritually.  Our lands are taken away. Our culture and belief systems are belittled so that we shun it.

“In the end, the Orang Asli would not need the forest and resources there because the new religion and culture is not connected to the native people’s belief, religion and tradition.

“By doing so the forest and its resources would continue to be monopolised without objections of the Orang Asli.

On related matter, DAP MP P Kasthuri reminded the Kelantan state government that Article 11 of the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to its citizens.

“This includes protection to all Orang Asli people who wish to practise and profess their faiths and belief in Malaysia Baru,” she said.

She also reminded the Kelantan government that the Orang Asli community are the oldest inhabitants in the land, dating back to before 2,500 BC.

“And they continue to live here in peace with nature, with the people, their souls tied to the earth they know.

“The practise of animism and the believe in the presence of spirits continue to influence their lives until today,” said Kasthuri, adding that any attempt to convert them will be a stumbling block to form a cohesive Malaysian society.

By K Pragalath and G Vinod

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