KOTA KINABALU, Aug 15, 2014:
Norbilin binti Abdul Jalil is proud of her name. It makes her feel unique. And what makes it more interesting is that she is a Christian, and it’s stated on her Mykad.
In Malaysia, a Muslim’s religion is known by the presence of “bin” or “binti” in the name, but in Sabah, its usage is nothing new, even for a non-Muslim.
“In Sabah, it is fine to have a ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ in our names. It carries our surname. Just like the Indian community have ‘son of’ or ‘daughter of’, which is also given to refer their gender.
“So far, I have no problem with my name, although I realise my surname is not exactly a Christian name.
“But I think people in Sabah accepts such name, and the fact that although you have a ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ or a surname like mine, does not make you a Muslim,” said the 26-year-old.
In fact, she said most people from her village, Kampung Tambilidon in Pitas, some 180km from here, have what some may refer to as a “Muslim name”.
While it is normal back home, she said she does get weird looks from some friends, especially those from the Peninsular Malaysia.
“They get confuse, they think that just because I have a ‘binti’, I am a Muslim.”
This was a concern raised by Sabah Catholic Archbishop John Wong, who was backed by a statement by the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sabah recently for the authorities to respect the Christians rights to practise their faith as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
Both Christian religious leaders also called on the National Registration Department to rectify the wrong classification of Bumiputera Christians in Sabah as Muslims just because they have the “bin” or “binti” in their names.
“We have received complaints on this matter in the past. But I would describe it as more of a technical problem,” Sabah National Registration Department (NRD) director Ismail Ahmad said
He said such mistakes occur when some NRD staff, especially non-Sabahans, do not understand the uniqueness of the Sabah people’s names.
“Sabahans may have a Muslim name, or a ‘bin’ or ‘binti’, but that does not necessarily mean they are a Muslim. So those (NRD staff) who do not understand this would just key in Muslim as their religion, based on their names.
“Even some Sabah leaders have Muslim names but they are, in fact, non-Muslims. It’s normal in Sabah.
“But in cases where their religion is mistakenly stated, they can come to any NRD office to get it verified. No supporting documents needed as we have records of their parents’ history,” he told The Rakyat Post today.
Ismail said only for converts, either from Christian to Islam, or vice versa, would then need an authorisation letter from the relevant authorities, such as the syariah court or the Sabah Islamic Affairs Department (JHEAINS), to support their claims.
“For instance, for those who left Islam and embraced other religion and wish to change the religion stated in their Mykad, their request will need to be verified by the Syariah Court or JHEAINS.
“It is a bit tedious, but this is required to avoid future problem,” he said.
Ismail admitted that there had been cases in the past, and learning from experiences, he said the Department learned that it was important to “do the right way, just to avoid sensitivity to the issue for fear of creating greater havoc.”
He said in Sabah, most cases are due to the conversion of parents, be it before or after a child is born.
“Some may request for their MyKad to be rectified, especially on the religion bit, stressing that they are Christians and have been practising Christianity since birth, although one parent or both had decided to embrace Islam at a later age.
“They will need to get a letter from the Islamic officials to prove that they were born before their parent or parents converted into Islam.
“If they were born before their parents converted, that should not pose a problem, but in cases where a child is born after the conversion, they are regarded as a Muslim. This is based on Islamic law which our regulations are based on,” he explained.
Having said that, Ismail said the system is set to avoid future problems, so as not to burden the people.
“The NRD is prepared to help those with such problems and would ensure proper rectification is done, to avoid any problems from them in future.
“We do not want issues raised due to religious complications. We are here to make things right and will ensure that the people are served, regardless of their backgrounds.”