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Why are Malaysians so afraid of free Qurans?

Very recently, there’s been a rumor being shared on Whatsapp and Facebook warning non-Muslims against accepting free copies of the Quran from an NGO called Multiracial Reverted Muslim (MRM), as the details you’ll give them in return for accepting the Quran will be used to convert your official records from non-Muslim to Muslim.

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Screencapped from Facebook

There’s also a picture of a van used by MRM to distribute these Qurans as well as a link to a Malaysian Insider article titled “Don’t Accept Free Copies of Translated Quran, Says Interfaith Council” :

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Taken from MRM’s Facebook page

Reading this, some questions spring to mind:

 

Question 1: Can they convert you by giving you a Quran and getting your personal details?

The short answer is NO. We came to this conclusion using that pesky human trait called “logical thinking”.

Applying this “logical thinking” to the rumor, we can filter their ability to convert you to Islam down to two conditions:

  1. Accepting a Quran that you won’t be able to get rid of because it’s a holy book
  2. Giving them personal details that they can use to change your religious status to Muslim.

So essentially, the argument is that when you find that they have somehow gotten government agencies to change your identification details and make a complaint about it, they’ll use the Quran that you can’t get rid of as proof that you are a Muslim. So ugaiz know what this means right? – Yep, opportunities to pull the best prank ever!

The Best Prank Ever!

Become a member of MRM and send your boss a package with a Quran inside. He will be obliged to keep this once he opens and touches it because it’s a holy book. Get his personal details from the company database and, smackboompow!, your boss is now Muslim and there’s nothing he can do about it! Hilarity!

So basically, this isn’t a nefarious plot to convert unsuspecting Malaysians but rather an opportunity for epic next-level trolling. 

As an added bonus, we asked favorite ponytailed lawyer Fahri Azzat of LoyarBurok about the legal aspects of this rumor and his reply was shockingly expected

“I don’t think that rumor is true” – Fahri Azzat, favorite ponytailed lawyer

Okaylah, he said a little more than that but we’ve actually covered the process of Islamic conversion in another article which you should totes read, where we also mention that using such tactics highlighted is illegal would probably land those guys with a lawsuit or in jail.

So yea.. the question of whether or not they can convert you like that has been officially debunked by both logic and law.

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Image from decodinggravityfalls.tumblr.com

But how did this rumor come about? This leads us to…

 

Question 2: Is this all Mahathir’s doing?

TUN DR MAHATHIR MOHAMAD / ONE SOUL ONE QURAN

Image from Ismaweb.net

Back in January this year, Mahathir announced the One Soul One Quran project by the Islamic Information and Service Foundation (IIS) that aims to distribute one million copies of the Quran translated into Tamil, Chinese, English and Malay to the public in order to combat Islamophobia amongst non-Muslims. These Qurans will also provide additional footnotes on verses which are commonly misinterpreted by non-Muslims to justify Islamophobic arguments.

“They like to portray Islam as a cruel, unreasonable or unjust religion and that makes non-Muslims in Malaysia afraid of Islam, when the reality is, there is nothing to fear.” – Dr. Mahathir, as quoted in The Star.

However, the group named in the rumors is Multiracial Reverted Muslims (MRM), which is an organization of reverted Muslims offering support to other reverts and for Da’wah, which is sorta like Islamic missionary work. They were originally called Malaysia Chinese Muslim as the founder is a Chinese-Muslim revert and… well, we assume the original members were Chinese la.

[CILISOS Fun Fact!] The reason why Muslims use “revert” rather than “convert” is because they believe that everyone is born with a natural faith in God (Fitrah), so when a non-Muslim embraces Islam, they are returning or reverting to that one-ness with God.

 

So what’s going on here??

Well, the MRM invited us to their office for a press conference to clarify the matter. When we asked them if they had any idea why MRM was named in the messages, founder Firdaus Wong said:

” I hope I have an idea. If I do, you might want to get Toto numbers* from me later, but I don’t.”

He suggests that it might be due to their high visibility in public, with the colorful van and outreach efforts, and the fact that they’re somewhat pioneers in this form of Da’wah in Malaysia.

*He was joking. Gambling is haram in Islam. 

Also, part of their Da’wah efforts do involve the distribution of free copies of the Quran to members of the public who are interested. If you take this in consideration with the fact that the article commonly forwarded with the messages doesn’t mention the name of Mahathir’s project, there’s a pretty high chance that MRM’s missionary activities might have been confused with Mahathir’s “One Soul One Quran.

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Writer isn’t the best photographer in the world

 

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On this, MRM has stated that they aren’t part of the project, which has yet to launch, and their (MRM’s) own Quran project has been ongoing for at least a year before the announcement of One Soul One Quran. They also insisted that they don’t have the capability nor the desire to forcibly convert anyone and all free copies of the Quran were given without coercion. And no, you don’t have to give them your personal details unless you’re interested in receiving more reading material from them.

Well, mystery solved! Looks like some people got worked up for nothing…………. but why?

 

Are non-Muslims more wary when it comes to Islam?

From this writer’s personal experience, his Buddhist parents didn’t bat an eyelid when he came home with a Bible one day, but when he bought a copy of the Quran some years later, oooohboy did the questions start.

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My copy of the Quran

There’s no other way to say this nicely… most non-Muslims have been conditioned to be wary of Islam. Before you start flaming us though, let us clarify that this is on a general scale. We don’t really have much hard data on Malaysian perceptions, so hey, maybe u (non-Muslim) gaiz can help us out:

It’s sad to say that Islam hasn’t had the best of reputations in recent years, with the religion being linked to extremism, terroism, and most commonly nowadays, Islamic State (IS). We aren’t doing better on the local front either, with fatwasHudud law, and raids by religious authorities. Even at the time of writing, news broke that the Terengganu state government would be implementing an Islamic dress code for locals and tourists. Islam also hasn’t had the best representatives, with the more vocal ones constantly leaving a bad taste in most of our mouths (Ohai Ridhuan Tee!).

Most important of all though, so important that it deserves a paragraph of it’s own, is the “point” that once you convert to Islam, you can’t convert back and all your future generations will have no choice but to be Muslim (This isn’t entirely true, by the way).

But then again this has all to do with perception, to which, fine, mayyyyybe by reading the Quran and getting to understand Islam a little better non-Muslims would be able to get rid this conditioning. But maybe the problem doesn’t lie solely on educating non-Muslims about Islam, since…

 

Understanding isn’t a one-sided thing

Among the criticism from other groups on the distribution of free Qurans is that it can be seen as an attempt to convert non-Muslims by exposing them to Islamic doctrine under the excuse of “religious understanding”. There is also seen to a bit of a double-standard here when the the laws in the Federal Constitution prevents other religions from reaching out to Muslims even under same objective of mutual understanding. It’s also possible that the drama of the banning of the Malay-language Bible is still fresh in the minds of many non-Muslims.

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Image from BBC.com

This initiative also sorta-kinda implies that the fault lies entirely with non-Muslims who “don’t understand Islam” when there are in fact Muslims in Malaysia who may not fully understand their religion either. While we could pull up a bunch of references on the internet to try to back this up, we’ll instead ask you to read the comments on CILISOS writer Ariff’s article on Fatwa. You’ll find that many commenters mistake Fatwas for being rules set by God when they are in fact formal opinions of religious scholars.

And so, Mahathir’s statement on misinterpretations of Islam being the source of misunderstanding and fear may be true, but it may not be reserved solely for non-Muslims. The point is that there are still Malaysian Muslims going off to fight for Islamic State, Muslims judging and berating their own brothers and sisters in Islam for not following what they deem to be the “right” form of Islam, and so forth.

Perhaps the efforts of achieving religious understanding needs to involve both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

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Image from erenarruna.com

 

What the Quran has taught this writer

The Quran, much like other religious books, is a great source of wisdom and life lessons – for as long as a person takes the effort to seek it.

I remember walking to the bookstore near my grandparents’ house in Ipoh and asking the pakcik for an English translation. When I opened the copy he gave me, I noticed that it came with the original Arabic text.

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A page from my copy of the Quran

Thinking it might be harder to read (since I don’t read Arabic so it kinda just took up space), I asked the pakcik if he had a plain English version – and the pakcik said no. “Why not?” I asked. “Because,” said the pakcik, “Translations are done by Man and therefore might contain errors… but the original text is from God. It’s there so that you can always have the choice to learn God’s words for yourself rather than depend on the interpretations of others.”

And those words, from a pakcik in a bookstore in Ipoh, were my first lesson from the Quran.

 

34 Comments

  1. Pingback: Cilisos – Why Are Malaysians So Afraid Of Free Qurans? |

  2. Jeffrey Read

    25/05/2015 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks Uihua for this article which brought me up to speed on the issue which I was never interested in anyway. Instead of commenting anything, I suggest everyone to RE-READ the article more slowly please until it REALLY sinks in and pay special attention to the above from “However, the group name in the rumours is MULTIRACIAL REVERTED MUSLIMS (MRM) … Well, mystery solved”. What an interesting use of words, I must say.

  3. Xing Lim

    18/03/2015 at 8:15 pm

    All the the brouhaha and unintelligible statements by ‘defenders of Islam’ (e.g. the (in)famous ISMA & Perkasa) has generally made the minority groups distrust towards Islam (but not to the extent of Islamophobia). To make matters worse, the government has turned both eyes blind whenever this group create unnecessary nonsense.

    Take example of the ‘Allah’ case which has been a sensational issue to all religious groups (and i’m sure atheist as well). The reason for ban by the authorities ?
    1. It’ll confuse the muslims
    2. It’ll convert the muslims
    3. With the ensured confusion, there’ll be chaos.
    When non-muslims raise the ‘dafuq’ moments, the ‘heroes’ of Islam would accuse non-muslims as ‘kafirs challenging the sanctity of Islam’ and ‘you x suka, you can GTFO’.

    Don’t get me started with the ‘I want to touch a dog’ event either.

    Its not that non-muslims are ambivalent towards Islam, but towards Muslims themselves. The distribution of free Quran would not sway the perception of non-muslims, only the action of Muslims will. I’ve always lived by the creed ‘Treat others how you want to be treated’ (i read somewhere that its pretty much the Golden Rule of all major religion)

  4. SNTS

    07/03/2015 at 6:45 pm

    Good article UiHua! The problem is about people, not the religion

    • Uihua Cheah

      11/03/2015 at 11:16 am

      Thanks @disqus_Z21XIB23uT:disqus. And very much agreed 🙂

  5. Pingback: 5 things Ridhuan Tee said that surprisingly made sense | CILISOS - Current Issues Tambah Pedas!

  6. Richard

    04/03/2015 at 6:41 pm

    Definitely having a copy of the Quran would not turn one into a Muslim. Heck! I would be one by now since I have an electronic version in my phone and iPad! The point of contention by many is the need to fill in a form (not sure if that is even required) and the wonders they can do with the information that you provide in the form, like IC number and religion…Ya, you may say they can’t just change your religion with the IC no that you provide but hey, explain that to the non-Muslims bumis in the rural of Sabah and Sarawak who filled in some forms to obtain financial or material aid and boom they became Muslims after that! With this kind of news on our MSM, can you blame the non-Muslims for being sceptical on the distribution of free Qurans no matter how noble the intention?

    • Uihua Cheah

      06/03/2015 at 12:16 am

      Umm… as far as the MRM is concerned, you don’t have to fill in any forms unless you want more information from them. We’ll have to see about the One Soul One Quran though our lawyer friend also says that it’s still illegal for them to do it without your consent.

  7. Zee Lim

    04/03/2015 at 6:14 pm

    @phangkuanhoong:disqus … let me put it out there, I’m not in any means AGAINST the distribution of free Quran’s (or any holy book for that matter) to the public. What I’m wondering is why can’t all the other religions do the same? Are not all religions equal in the eyes of the law?

    Oh wait… thats a political move… and I have to shut my trap because APPARENTLY, religion and politics don’t mix in sunny Malaysia.

    @uihuacheah:disqus …. I know what you mean, man. As a journalist, you have to have an objective view on the subject matter, never taking sides and presenting the views of all the parties in your articles, while being ever vigilant to not go over the line with “sensitive/seditious/omfgtheyregonnajailme” content. Here’s an idea … how about doing an article on INTERFAITH in Malaysia. The general idea is to get EVERYONE to get to know EACH OTHER RELIGION, but not at the expense of any religion.

    Let me end with this quote from Pastor Martin Niemöller :

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

    • Uihua Cheah

      06/03/2015 at 12:07 am

      @zee_lim:disqus: Hmmm… I might just look into that. Do you have any organizations or people in mind? You can email me at [email protected] as well.

  8. Phang Kuan Hoong

    04/03/2015 at 2:27 pm

    beautiful read. Thank you.

    • Uihua Cheah

      06/03/2015 at 12:09 am

      Thanks @phangkuanhoong:disqus 🙂

  9. Youngster2000

    04/03/2015 at 12:33 pm

    free plus money i dont want! even dont stare at all!

  10. rockstar

    03/03/2015 at 8:57 pm

    With this translated AQ, are non muslims allowed to use ALLAH…?

    • Uihua Cheah

      03/03/2015 at 11:46 pm

      Actually, that’s a really good question. Guess we shall have to wait and see what happens 😀

  11. Wan Salman Wan Sallam

    03/03/2015 at 8:49 pm

    Great job CILISOS for clearing things up! Yes, while misunderstanding must be addressed among non-Muslims on Islam, I as Muslim myself believe it’s more urgent for Muslims themselves to clear things up since they claim to embrace the faith.

    Two thumbs up!

    • Uihua Cheah

      03/03/2015 at 11:48 pm

      Thanks @wansalmanwansallam:disqus!

      A lot of the time, there are two sides to a coin. I always hope our articles get to address that 🙂

    • Wan Salman Wan Sallam

      04/03/2015 at 12:29 am

      The fact that this comes from a non-Muslim really makes me realize Muslims really have to work hard to prove that there is nothing to be afraid of Islam and Muslims, and other religions alike.

      And yet, we Muslims are kinda stucked with convincing Muslims that there are nothing significant to be afraid of other religions.

      May you and CILISOS continue doing whatever it is you guys are doing 🙂

    • Tutu yoda

      06/03/2015 at 3:31 pm

      In Malaysia, Malaysian laws outlaws any critical and honest commentaries about religion, especially Islam. Writings and speech is forbidden and illegal. So how much can we (non-muslims) dissect and review about islam, when the laws only allow if we write neutrally or positively. And authorities (whom are muslims/malay) will come and arrest and Jail people !! Its a shameful sham. And speaks volume about the islam’s integrity, and how weak islam is (–>heyy quote here honest and true comment, is this allowed). Uihua (the writer of this article) You’re pathetic.

  12. Zee Lim

    03/03/2015 at 6:49 pm

    Lets put it this way. Is it ok to distributed free Bibles to the public? How is logic/law apparent in the many “body snatching” cases in Malaysia? How about the case of the Indian lady who is still waiting for the return of her kids who unwittingly FORCED to convert to Islam by thier father? Then we have the case of the confiscated Bibles by JAIS in Selangor. And Oh… who can forget… “Allah is for Muslim only”

    AND THAT my dear author is just the tip of the iceberg. So, before you ask… “WHY are Malaysians afraid of free Quran’s”…. how about your address process of forced Islam-ification in Malaysia first.

    • Uihua Cheah

      04/03/2015 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Zee,

      Your comments are much appreciated. Unfortunately, we aren’t an opinion site so until there’s conclusive proof of forced Islamification happening we would rather not have a sedition charge over our heads 😛

      Because these scope of this topic is rather broad, we usually cover them on a case to case basis. For example, we covered the underaged conversion issue here: http://cilisos.my/read-this-if-your-underaged-child-converts-to-islam-in-malaysia/, but as far as the rumor (which is the focus of this article) goes, it’s simply not true.

      I hope that helps clear things up 🙂

    • User

      06/03/2015 at 5:26 pm

      Uihua [email protected] you are a hypocrite to say no proof of Forced islamization in malaysia. Race=religion Malay=Muslim, is one obvious proof. If the muslims and aothorities function this way, do you not think they would do the same behaviour on other issues/race/religion.

    • SNTS

      07/03/2015 at 6:39 pm

      @User, “Race=religion Malay=Muslim, is one obvious proof”.
      What kind of proof is that?

    • Phang Kuan Hoong

      04/03/2015 at 2:35 pm

      i think perhaps you need to learn to distinguish between a religious move and a political move.

      Forced Islamification is a political move. The actions do not represent the faith, but those who use it as a tool of oppression and power.

      I do not agree with any religion sticking their holy books in my face for whatever purpose. but then i’m an atheist so live and let live.

      but what the fear of Quran and Islam reveals a two-sided picture as the author had articulated sufficiently.

      and to blame it on any one side is folly.

      similarly, it is unwise to play into the sentiments the politicians would like you to have. as presented in your comment.

      we should be against religious extremism, but that shouldn’t be the excuse for blind condemnation without even an attempt of understanding first.

    • User

      06/03/2015 at 5:30 pm

      Phang Kuan [email protected] before u start teaching people that Faith and Politics are separate, do research and use common sense. Zee Lim is right. They are much intertwined, even in malaysia. A lot of the gov policies, gov actions, Laws, are made to accomodate Islam position in power. Islamization is BOTH political and religion/faith movement. The obligation to convert infidels (non muslims) is in the quran. So Phang Kuan Hoong be honest when making reply.

    • Phang Kuan Hoong

      09/03/2015 at 6:27 pm

      sorry, but again you are confused.

      are gov policies, actions and law made to ‘accommodate’ Islam?

      or are such policies, actions and law made to use Islam as a association for to support racial politics?

      are such laws and policies explicitly expressed to be the absolute must in Islam?

      Or are they perpetuated as so to keep particular persons and political entities in power.

      If you can’t tell the difference between the two, the problem is you, not the faith.

      because any other religion can be used in the same matter as seen in some countries.

      To say that both are “intertwined” is to claim that forced Islamization is integral if not absolute in Islam’s teachings.

      but I am one of the opinion that the authorities are using Islam as a means to power.

      And to say the former, you best provide some solid proof that Islam as a faith itself, dictates that its followers must force others into its faith.

      So, User, learn more before you make sweeping assumptions that are but nothing beyond the propagated rubbish.

    • Yoe

      05/03/2015 at 10:32 am

      I got 1 for free
      I dont whine and bitch about it

    • User

      06/03/2015 at 5:31 pm

      Forced islamization is an Islamic decree. Its happening globally, in europe, in malaysia, everywhere where there are muslims, they seek to islamize countries and civilization. They do not assimilate. You are Right.

    • Phang Kuan Hoong

      11/03/2015 at 3:43 pm

      Proof and evidence and less Westernized rhetoric please.

      Facets of religion differ according to geopolitical backgrounds.

      Christianity in US is not the same as the kind perpetuated here, or the same kind practised in South America.

      Islam in ISIS and the middle east is not the same as the kind perpetuated in China.

      Buddhism in Tibet is not the same as the kind practised in Malaysia.

      The same principle applies to ideologies as well.

      To slap a singular label and stereotype every single person who subscribes to that label is stupid as much it is ignorant.

      Use the internet, User. Learn and unlearn the rhetoric you’ve been fed before making such sweeping statements.

      What you’ve posted here is no different from the authority figures saying ‘ALL Cinas are like this and that’.

      not only are you promoting idiocy, ignorance and false assumptions, you are perpetuating hate.

      and again, your woes lay not with the faith, but with the authority who uses the faith,

      until you learn to see that, you are, again, only promoting the usual US AGAINST THEM rhetoric, doubt and hate.

      and please, if you’re so righteous about your opinions, post them in your full name.

  13. GranpaX

    03/03/2015 at 3:24 pm

    I have no qualms of having a free copy of The Quran. In fact, I copped a copy from the hotel I stayed in my last vacation. It help me understand Islam more. Here’s the thing, use the religious text as a textbook. I studied Theology before and we had a subject called “Hermeneutics” – which mean literally we use and read other religious texts solely for educational purpose.

    On the other hand, when Dakwah is done rampantly and aggressively, the governing body of any religious faith should get offended or take up arms, when another group of faith starts distributing their religious text. If that fails to happen, I am very sure it is called hypocrisy.

    What I believe is at the moment of birth, no one individual belongs to a certain religion until indoctrination, in that brief moment, we are all unified as Human beings. I don’t see the butt-hurt it will cause. The real problem lies when some sneaky bum-bums do sneaky nonsensical things like conversion in secrecy. If truly The Qurans are given out as, “ikhlas”, then our particular shouldn’t be taken down and an option of how to properly get rid of the Quran should be given in written form.

    • Uihua Cheah

      04/03/2015 at 1:31 pm

      “Hermeneutics”… so there IS a word for it!

      *Adds to internal dictionary*

      On a completely side note, I had a conversation with a friend about how to properly dispose of a Quran… Apparently it’s by burning, though it probably wouldn’t look too good to the neighbors 😛

    • GranpaX

      04/03/2015 at 1:41 pm

      That is one way to put it. I find it fascinating, as Sikhs do in essence “cremate” their old and worn out copies of The Grand Sahib. They venerate the Grand Sahib as the 11th and final Guru. So the same last rites were given to the texts as a human would.

      Burning is common. Surely I can’t do it as I do with barbecue. It must come with its own protocols before burning. That is to dispose for good. What if I want to relinquish my copy The Quran? Is there any collection centre to do so?

    • Uihua Cheah

      06/03/2015 at 12:09 am

      That’s a really good point. I’ll need to check on that.

    • SNTS

      07/03/2015 at 6:44 pm

      Just pass it to any library, they will collect it

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