Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Article 11 of the Constitution Specifically Phrased so as to Forbid Conversion?

Written by johnleemk on 11:27:47 am May 18, 2005.
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Note: This is part of a series in which I rebutt remarks I disagree with posted on the malaysia-today.net May 2005 debate.

This article is in response to the following comment:

Anon 6.57 pm,

I would answer you on the freedom of religion in the Federal Constitution (FC). On the other things, I say to you, "Lay off! You are interfering. SUHAKAM is there for him to complain to".

Article 11(1), FC says "every citizen shall be free to profess and practise his religion". THE KEY WORD IS 'HIS' WHICH MEANS THE CITIZEN HAS ALREADY GOT A RELIGION. So if he is a Hindu, his religion is Hinduism. He is therefore free to profess and practise Hinduism which inter alia does not prohibit him from changing religion. If the citizen is a Muslim,his religion is Islam. He is therefore free to profess and practise Islam which inter alia prohibits him from changing religion. So where do you come in?

Article 11(1) was not written to read "every citizen shall be free to profess and practice any religion of his choice" as you non Muslims make belief it was. You want to know the reason why? Because Lord Reid, the Architect of the Constitution, was fully aware that almost all Malaysians are born with a religious faith and that Muslims unlike non Muslims are not allowed to change religion.

Ignoring the issue of non-Muslims "butting in" into Muslim matters, which I have tackled earlier in this series, we now move on to this interesting argument proposing that article 11 of the constitution somehow forbids Muslims from converting.

The following is the text of article 11:
Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.

Now, can anyone tell me what this means to you, at first sight? It states that every person may profess (make publicly known) and practice (engage in all rituals and traditions as necessary) his religion. Now, for those of you who may not know what inter alia (as it was used in the quoted comment earlier) means, it is a Latin phrase meaning "among other things".

Basically the premise is: A Hindu is not forbidden to convert by his religion. Therefore, a Hindu can convert, because his religion expressly allows it; converting would be practicing his religion. A Muslim is forbidden to convert by his religion. Therefore, he may not convert, as it would not be practicing his religion. Ignoring the apparently, ahem, illogical proposition that conversion is not forbidden by any religion other than Islam and that conversion is part of practicing one's religion, does the thesis make any sense at all? It's absolutely ridiculous!

I don't know how in a million years anyone could come up with such an idea. If a Muslim desires to convert, is he not no longer a Muslim since he does not believe in Islam any more? Therefore, are not the practices of Islam inapplicable to him? Even putting that aside, it logically follows from the thesis that:


Now, I know it sounds a bit crazy, but you'd think almost any religion with set of codified teachings would forbid conversion, wouldn't it? Christianity and Judaism both use parables and examples in their teachings indicating conversion is forbidden. So why hasn't the police arrested any heretical Christians yet?

Oh, right. Because somehow only Islam forbids conversion. Alright, we can live with that. But I hope you'll abide by article 2 of the constitution, then:
No person shall be compelled to pay any tax the proceeds of which are specially allocated in whole or in part for the purposes of a religion other than his own.

After all, arresting, jailing and prosecuting apostates so that they may practice their religion (despite how little sense this concept makes) costs money. And this money comes from Malaysians' taxes. So, show me the money!


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