It was also alleged that a Jakoa officer had warned them that they would not be allowed to live in the village anymore and their houses and crops would be destroyed.
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According to a news report by Malaysiakini, a group of 137 Orang Asli from the Bateq Mayah tribe are seeking to nullify their status as Muslims after claiming they were duped into converting during a mass conversion 30 years ago.
Malaysiakini sighted court documents, which reported that the tribe filed a writ of summons at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in September last year against the Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa), its director and officer, the Pahang Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (Muip), the Pahang government, and the federal government.
It was claimed that the mass conversion was carried out illegally following alleged threats by a Jakoa officer, at Kg Benchah Kelubi, Merapoh, in Kuala Lipis, Pahang, in April 1993.
The tribe claimed that the defendants had breached their duty to protect and preserve the cultural and religious beliefs of the aboriginal peoples.
It was also alleged that a total of 57 tribe members were coerced and converted, and the remainder were children born later.
In Malaysia and in accordance with the local laws, children born to Muslim parents are considered Muslims and have “Islam” on their identity cards.
The Orang Asli also claimed that they did not recite the creed as it was recited to them and have continued to practise the animistic beliefs of their tribe.
They only realised much later that the word Islam was on their identity cards after they learnt how to speak basic Bahasa Malaysia.
Additionally, it was also alleged that the Jakoa officer had warned them that they would not be allowed to live in the village anymore and their houses and crops would be destroyed.
The Orang Asli claimed they were warned that they would be hunted down and tortured if they ran deeper into the jungle.
This has garnered multiple comments from netizens of various backgrounds.
Twitter user @ayrttonleon_ said:
Forced conversions and assimilation by the authorities are blatant abuse of power over the powerless. This is so wrong in many ways.@ayrttonleon_ via Twitter
Meanwhile Twitter user @climateaidil called this act heartless.
Authorities forced the Orang Asli from the Bateq Mayah tribe in Pahang to convert to Islam. If they didn’t, they would be forced to leave their ancestral villages, have their homes & crops destroyed & be tortured if they ran away. Absolutely heartless.@climateaidil via Twitter
Another Twitter user @abishadream questioned Malaysia’s freedom to choose your own religion.
It’s insane how these people are using the scaring tactic to force conversions onto orang asli and it is even scary how this has happened for decades. What happened to kebebasan agama?@abishadream via Twitter
Twitter user @asianpadthai said:
This is similar to what happened to the Indigenous in rural parts of Sabah and Sarawak. The community was promised beras (rice), cooking oil and other basic necessities if dorang peluk Islam (they converted to Islam). At the end, they only convert atas sebab untuk teruskan kehidupan (for the reason that they wanted to survive).@asianpadthai via Twitter
Another Twitter user @ProudOrangAsli called this act “disgusting and blatantly disrespectful.
This is so disgusting and blatantly disrespectful if it were proven in court that these Orang Asli from the Bateq tribe are indeed being forced to convert to Islam! Enough with the forced religious conversion! Leave us orang asli alone!.@ProudOrangAsli via Twitter