Religious conversion: what message PM Anwar is sending to Malaysians?
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim might be a devout Muslim, but he is a leader of the entire nation consisting of different ethnic and religious communities.
Islam might be the official religion, but then the Federal Constitution protects the worship of religions other Islam.
Most importantly, religion and ethnicity are sensitive and inflammable issues in Malaysia.
The recent state elections brought to fore how polarised the nation is the on questions of ethnicity and religion. Given this, Anwar should have stayed out of presiding over the conversion of an Hindu youth in Klang recently.
Not that he was unaware of what he was getting into. It was not he was suddenly waylaid after his Friday prayers to officiate the conversion. He was fully aware of what he was doing and as the Prime Minister was aware of the implications of the conversion in a multi-ethnic and multicultural nation.
Conversion from one religion to another in the country are seen as a zero-sum game. In this conversion, it is seen as the gain for the Malay-Muslims and a loss for the Indian community who are predominantly Hindus.
What is the purpose of Anwar often repeating the mantra that all Malaysians are his children, but on the conversion matter, the Malay Muslims are obviously his preferred children.
There was no necessity for Anwar to demonstrate his strong faith as a Muslim by converting a non-Muslim. The other ways that Anwar could have done it.
It is not there are no religious officials around to perform the task. Why was Anwar needed for this conversion? Was there anything special about it?
No prime ministers earlier had presided over religious conversions.
Even the infamous former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohammed had not engaged in the act of religious conversion. Former Umno leader Khairy Jamaludin might support Anwar on this conversion issue, maybe he had to, in anticipation of some political rewards. Using the official status of Islam as a reason for Anwar’s role in the conversion illogical.
Even right thinking Muslims who might not be pleased with Anwar’s role in the conversion matter might not come out in the open to say that Anwar as the leader for all Malaysians should have refrained himself from presiding over the religious conversion.
Khairy and others might support Anwar, but they fail to realise that the latter’s action has hurt and humiliated the Indian community to the extent the action seems irreversible. The religious conversion of a Hindu reinforces years of discrimination and humiliation of the Indian community in the country.
It might be a religious conversion of one person, too much cannot be read from such an act. But surely, when the Prime Minister presides over the conversion, then the message has ominous implications for the non-Muslims in the country.
The numerically small and economically disadvantaged communities seems to be the most vulnerable to the majoritarian grand political designs.
I wonder how Anwar is going to rectify the damage inflicted on the Indian community supposedly his staunch supporters?