3 weeks of travel and exploration around some of the bigger tourist areas in Malaysia opened up our eyes to this country and the topic of religion.
Malaysia is an Islamic country and if you are Malay then by birth you are Muslim.
It is a country that allows the freedom of religion so people can believe and practice any faith. Especially as this country is very mixed, there is a very large Chinese and Tamil population along with people from all over the world.
As of the 2010 Population and Housing Census, 61.3 percent of the population practices Islam; 19.8 percent Buddhism; 9.2 percent Christianity; 6.3 percent Hinduism; and 1.3 percent traditional Chinese religions.
Once you read into things and talk to people that live here you realise things aren’t always what they seem.
Kuala Lumpur was like most other big capital cities, very multi cultural and welcoming, we even got the chance to go to a church as we were there on a Sunday.
Holy Trinity Bukit Buntang, this was a church plant from a British church that we knew of, the church made us feel like we were back in England the style was similar to what we were used to, the leaders were English, we knew and liked the worship songs, the only difference was that the congregation was mainly Chinese Malaysians. It was great to see this church and be able to worship and talk to people. This gave us an insight into what it is like to be a Christian in Kuala Lumpur. First point someone told us was that you aren’t allowed to evangelise to Malays who are all technically Muslims, it is against the law. The promising things were that the church was growing, and there are many other churches in the city but again this is a big capital city full of people from all over the world.
Georgetown in Penang which has a high population of Chinese Malaysians seems to have a larger Christian community with many churches around the city partly due to a higher population of Chinese. Whereas we also traveled to Langkawi which was predominately Malays therefore the Christian presence was very little, in fact we saw no obvious churches during our time there. It seems like from conversations we have had that Churches and Christians tend to be in these big cities, and mainly areas with a high Chinese populations, there are of course many old churches that were built during times of colonisation but starting a new church seems to be a lot harder to do. At the end of the day the minority religions are all mainly focused in certain areas whether it be Christians, Hindus or Buddhists. It is a lot harder to practise one of these religions in other areas because of the lack of places to worship or the fear or being discriminated.
While we were there even new stories would pop up on my phone about incidents going on in Malaysia, one memorable headline was a Muslim only launderette, which caused an uproar. An Islamic lecturer was arrested for giving a lecture about Islam without having the authority to. These were just stories happening while we were in the country, we later found out more incidents that have happened in the past.
One thing we knew from before we arrived was that Malays are all Muslim and technically there is no choice for that, they are not allowed to change their religion or they will be sent to Faith Purification centres where they will try to ‘brainwash’ them to return to Islam. It is difficult to estimate the number of converts from Islam in Malaysia. Online newspaper MalaysiaKini reported that 863 people had applied to leave Islam from 2000 to 2010. During that period, 168 had been allowed to do so. That works out to 86 applications per year, with 19 percent being granted. Fear of re-education centers and persecution by their families force Malay Christians either to follow Jesus secretly or to move to Commonwealth countries such as Australia or New Zealand, where they can openly worship Jesus.
Also there seems to be hierarchy in this country where Malays are the only ones allowed to take government positions, so this keeps the tight grip on the country to be rooted in Islam, through the government policies and sharia law. Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities have voiced fears that courts are unfairly asserting the supremacy of Islam. Still, it sounds like that non Muslims can live in Malaysia peacefully if they aren’t planning to confront the government or evangelise Muslims.
We have talked to a Muslim lady who told us about various rules that are included in the sharia law such as if you are found in a hotel room and you are not married you have to a pay a very high penalty (or you might be jailed), same with if you are found that you are drinking alcohol or eating in public during Ramadan. There are laws in Malaysia’s more Islamic states that state anyone who misses Friday prayers three weeks in a row can be punished by six months in jail. Smoking, drinking or eating on Ramadan carry a jail term up to one year.
Another volunteer told us that even though the owner of the hotel seemed like a liberal muslim she threw away a BBQ as some volunteers cooked pork on it. This reminds me of the time when we were in Israel and when we were staying with the religious Jewish family and how badly they looked at us when we cooked chicken and dairy in the toastie maker. There are so many similarities within the two religions with all their rules, I honestly don’t get it why they can’t get along.
In many Muslim countries, Muslims will be taught how to evangelise the world that is by going to live in the West, slowly introducing their rules and laws (like halal food, sharia law, scarves etc…) having lots of children, marrying non Muslims and then forcing them to become Muslims or to get a divorce, winning people over with money and material enticements and tricking Christians by promising jobs to them if they convert to Islam. (Garrison: 70) Of course there will be many exceptions but some of these we can see happening around Europe, Muslims asking for their ways to be accepted, yet a lot of them have also experienced the negative effects of the sharia law and have fled from their countries. Since our travelling, I have started to appreciate freedom of religion and speech even more than ever before. Surely, anyone who is a refugee in countries where they are able to practice their religion and say what they think should appreciate and be thankful and respectful of the culture of the country they have moved to instead of forcing their way onto them. After all this would be the minimal expected of you if it was the other way round.
I have no doubt that there are thousands of Muslims who are peaceful and who believe in their religion wholeheartedly and practice it in a positive way and we can certainly learn from them as well, however looking into faith in Malaysia in supposedly one of the most forward thinking Islamic countries, I feel that Europe cannot accept to be islamised. Yet, realistically Islam will not stop growing and spreading across the world because of their strategies so what is your solution Europe? Certainly turning away from God, becoming more accepting of anything and everything, offering no hope and community is not going to help but neither will violence and hatred. The only way I can see change is by turning back to the only hope there is, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ who offers peace, love, forgiveness and reconciliation.
There is freedom of religion and freedom of speech across Europe and America so shouldn’t we be using this as an opportunity to share who Jesus is with people especially Muslims who wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to hear about the Good News anywhere else. It might be a good idea to start studying the Koran and the culture as well so that we know how to relate to them and how to reach out to them.
Once we start researching, we will be able to show how the Koran is also pointing to Jesus being the Saviour and the only perfect person that has ever lived. According to the Koran: “Jesus is in heaven now while Muhammad is not with ‘Allah’, Muhammad is not coming again but Jesus is coming again, Muhammad is dead, Jesus is alive, Muhammad is only a Messenger but Jesus is called Ruhullah (the spirit of Allah)” and so many other reasons why Jesus is the way to God. The only religion that offers certainty after life is Christianity through Jesus. He was the only one in history who has made it possible.
We are researching and reading more at the moment so there will be more blogs coming on Islam, the Koran, other religions etc… in the future.
Have used A wind in the house of Islam by David Garrison as reference from personal testimonies from Muslims a couple of times.
You can find more facts on the following websites http://factsanddetails.com/southeast-asia/Malaysia/sub5_4d/entry-3677.html