“People who change their religion should face the death penalty.”
- Zakir Naik
- Zakir Naik
COMMENT | Why is Muhammad Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu, a follower of Zakir Naik, and member of Angkatan Skuad Mubaligh Malaysia, known as an “independent” preacher? What does this mean? JAIS had hooked up with Kalimuthu (in 2017) to give courses on the Tamil language to increase productivity when it comes to proselytizing in a multilingual milieu.
What this course was supposed to do, was make it easier for Muslim preachers (state sanctioned) attempting to convert Indians, using the Tamil language as an entry point into their lives.
The idea that Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin puts forward that Kalimuthu was only testifying when it came to his personal experience with the Hindu faith, is bunkum. What Kalimuthu was doing as a professional proselytizer was creating a narrative for Muslims to use to convert Hindus in the course of his professional duties.
So there is nothing “independent” about Kalimuthu. He was a state actor, whose mission is to covert people to Islam, specifically Tamil speaking Hindus. So let us not play into this narrative that Malaysia is a market place of Islamic ideas where independent preachers roam free, disseminating ideas, some of which go against official narratives of the state.
This idea of Muslim converts as the perfect vehicles to proselytize, is nothing new. Muslim convert Ridhuan Tee Abdulah, for instance, always pleaded “special knowledge” when it came to the Chinese community, hence his “attacks” against the community had the appearance of legitimacy to a certain section of the Muslim community. This idea of using converts to preach is propagated by prostylizing faiths all over the world.
I understand the Hindu outrage when it comes to what Kalimuthu said. While most Hindus expect their faith to be mocked, especially in the current political climate, the reason why this supposedly “personal” video was uploaded was meant as a kind of advertisement to other Muslims and an anecdote by a former Hindu as to the lack of Hinduism, hence the conversion.
Ridhuan Tee (above) does something similar too. His provocations against the Chinese community were meant to legitimize the greatness of his faith, at the same time pointing out the supposed flaws of the religious and social mores of the Chinese community. After all, why convert if your original faith was fulfilling whatever religious expectations you needed, right ?
This bunkum is exactly what preachers like Zakir Naik promote. If you listen to what Kalimuthu says or even Ridhuan Tee, for instance, you will notice the echoes of what Zakir Naik pushes in his “inspirational” sermons. This idea that there is something wrong with your faith, which is why conversion is necessary to ameliorate whatever feelings of doubt you have about your faith and circumstances.
This idea that converting in this country does not come with some state sponsored benefits is something that is often overlooked in these conversion debates. Nobody wants to have that conversation because to do so would invite religious groups to lodge police reports that claimed you were disrespecting the Muslim faith.
The Perlis mufti (above), the onetime darling of the then Harapan opposition has a history of denigrating the Hindu community. It is pointless listing the vile comments he has made about the Hindu community. It amounts to how the religion of the state targets vulnerable disenfranchised communities, with the hope of inclusion through religious conversion.
The problem with the religious discourse in this country is not that people are going about insulting each other's religion, but rather the state has the power to sanction people for trespassing on religious and racial issues.
This power is often applied unequally, with the state sanctioned religion and its adherents getting off scott-free, when the same does not apply to the other religions in this country.
Asri’s lament that the Harapan regime has been lacking in protecting the sanctity of Islam comes at a time when Asri is under public scrutiny for comments he has made, the people he associates with and the realization that he was never the moderate Muslim the then opposition built him up to be.
While prime minister Mahathir Mohammad has to defend Harapan's track record when it comes to Muslim issues, the reality is they have not really differed from the Umno regime when it comes to how the religion of the state is practiced in this country.
Well, there is a small difference. There have been attempts made to equalize state action when it comes to religious provocations; hence we get Muslims hauled up by the state for making derogatory comments, when before, they would have been coddled by the state.
The Suhakam conclusion that Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat (above) were kidnapped by state actors, also sent a chill down the spine of the Islamic deep state. No doubt, with the embracing by the Harapan state of someone like Zakir Naik, they believed all was kosher when it comes to demonizing other religions and carrying out sub rosa religious agendas.
In the end, there will always be the Kalimuthus and the Ridhuan Tees, because weak people will be used by the state or state sanctioned bodies to propagate ideas of religious superiority, because zealots understand that free will, when it comes to faith, is a more frightening prospect than independent democratic institutions.