Hornbill Unleashed

August 25, 2014

Native Christians ‘converted’ by state policy

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:00 AM
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Bob Teoh

When Juinah binti Paulus, a native Christian, went to the National Registration Department (NRD) to get her new identity card, the NRD changed her religious identity to Islam without her knowledge nor consent.

This is not unusual. Many native or bumiputera Christians in Sabah and Sarawak with bin (son of) or binti (daughter of) in their names, are automatically classified as Muslims in their identity cards, known as MyKad. Once this is done there is virtually no remedy, except to wait in an administrative purgatory.

Christians and non-Muslims consider this as backdoor conversion or “MyKad Islamisation”.

The NRD denies this is done as a government policy whenever it is confronted and put the blame on “technical glitches”.

The then director of the NRD in Sabah, Ismail Ahmad (left), is reported as acknowledging that, “While there have been cases where Christians in Sabah have been ‘converted to Islam’ by the NRD, simply because they have ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ in their names, he described those incidents as ‘technical glitches that occur due to the data entered into the department’s database when they first started the computerisation system.”

“I admit that sometimes we make mistakes, but this is actually something that can be rectified immediately. All you have to do is come to the office to point out the mistake and we will rectify it for you,” Ismail had said.

However, this is not that simple nor the policy of the NRD head office in Putrajaya, the country’s administrative capital.

In a meeting in 2012 with the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) and the NRD’s director-general, NECF in an official statement pointed out that, “At the meeting with NRD officials, NECF also raised the issue of East Malaysian Christians whose religion in their MyKad is recorded as ‘Islam’ simply because their names carry ‘bin’ and ‘binti’.

Data change only with approval of syariah court

It said, “The NRD confirmed that those who are affected could change the data in their MyKad provided they had obtained clearance from the Syariah Court.”

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) lashed out and warned that the NRD’s decision meant that it would continue to list such bumiputera Christians as Muslims until they have obtained an order from a syariah court to say that they are not Muslims. This would also be a violation of the affected persons constitutional rights and fundamental liberties as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

The conflict was referred to the cabinet and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak wanted a quick resolution. However, the NRD continues to drag its feet, giving an impression that the ‘MyKad Islamisation’ may, after all, be an unwritten government policy.

How then can there be a plausible explanation that the director-general of the NRD can be so bold as to defy the PM’s directive?

So Juinah binti Paulus, 30, a Murut native from Tenom in the western interior of Sabah, situated in Sabah’s oldest interior division, in the beautiful valley between the Crocker and Trus Madi ranges, has no choice but to go to the Syariah High Court, even though the court is supposed to have jurisdiction only over Muslims. Her main hurdle is that she is not allowed to be represented by Christian lawyers.

In her affidavit, Juinah said she is a full fledged member of Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sabah or the Borneo Evangelical Church since 2008 and was baptised 17 years ago. She married Matius bin Mangantig, 35, who is also a Christian of Rungus ethnicity and they have a four-year old son, Carl Xavier.

Files of 162 native Christian go missing

The other three cases still pending were brought by a 54-year-old widow and her two adult daughters and supported by the respective local churches. All three are from the Dusun Banggi tribe from the tip of Borneo. The case has been postponed a few times.

Meanwhile, files of 162 native Christians who complained that they were wrongly classified as Muslims have gone missing from the National Registration Department in Sabah.

This was highlighted by the NECF-COSA, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Commission of Sabah Affairs, during its meeting last year with Sabah’s (then) Assistant Minister of Finance, Donald Mojuntin. The files were handed to Abdul Jafer Henry, the then state NRD director in his office on Sept 24, 2010, by a lawyer and witnessed by two pastors.

The MyKad Islamisation controversy and the missing 162 files from the NRD surfaced once again two weeks ago when two senior Sabah clergymen demanded action from the NRD.

Taking a cue from the Catholic Archbishop of Sabah Rev John Wong’s urging to Putrajaya to act against aggressive Islamisation in the state, Rev Jerry Dusing , president of the indigenous denomination Sidang Injil Borneo Sabah, said, “As highlighted by Archbishop Wong, we urge NRD to immediately rectify the wrong classification of Bumiputera Christians in Sabah as Muslims just because they have ‘bin’ and ‘binti’ in their names. The JPN must desist from this ‘MyKad Islamisation’ drive through changing the religious status in the MyKad of these Christians.”

Dusing said the wrong classification of the MyKad belonging to native Christians in Sabah has brought untold misery to those affected.

And so, marriages too cannot be registered

“Christians wrongly classified as Muslims are unable to get married legally. Getting married in churches would not solve their problems as these marriages cannot be officially registered,” he said.

“The birth of their offspring also cannot be registered as their parent’s marriage is, in the first place, not recognised in law. This makes them illegitimate children. This presents a major problem in registering them in schools and in applying for their own identity cards. Eventually, they cannot even get married as Christians.”

The NRD responded to the senior clergymen by going once again into denial overdrive. The Sabah NRD deputy director, Adrian Allan Richard, is quoted as saying the NRD has no jurisdiction to decide on the religion of MyKad holders.

“Having a bin or binti in the name is not the criterion for a MyKad holder to be listed as Islam in the document,” Adrian said.

Adrian also denied receiving reports of lost files, saying that they have records dating back to the 1970s, which were digitally uploaded into their system.

“We have no agenda here, we only act according to facts. If it was indeed an administrative mistake, it will be easily cleared up by verifying past records,” he said, also denying previous reports that “technical glitches” prevented the correction process.

Meanwhile, Joseph Kurup (left), a Sabahan and a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, is scheduled to meet church leaders over several issues in Kota Kinabalu, on Aug 29, in the run-up to the celebration of Sabah’s 51st independence day on Aug 31.

However, Kurup is not expected to resolve the MyKad issues as the NRD is not under his jurisdiction but under the Home Ministry, whose minister is Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. And Zahid has not attended to this problem thus far.

The MyKad Islamisation presents itself as a serious ethno-religious conflict with far reaching consequences and Zahid cannot remain silent. Neither can the prime minister.




  1. My suggestion is that, from now on, all the Christian and non-Muslim natives of Sabah should stop immediately using ‘bin’ or ‘binti’, just like the non-Muslim Bisaya in Sarawak. Change to ‘Anak’, for example “Juinah Anak Paulus” or “Willie Anak Mojilip”. With this change, it gives no room for them to say, it is a technical glitches caused by the two words. If it is a technical glitches, then why must it be cleared by the Syariah Court that has absolutely no jurisdiction over non-Muslims. It should be just amended, isn’t it since it is a typo error! If it has to go to court it is deemed to have contentious legal issue(s). Don’t tell us such nonsense. And worse it takes ages for the Syariah court to adjudicate on the matter.

    I do not see the non-Muslim indigenous of Sabah have any sentimental issue or bin and binti after all it means the same thing as ‘anak’. The huguan siaw of KDM must call for a meeting of all the chief and elders to agree on this change.

    With this change, the allegation or truth of behind door or Mykad conversion shall be put to final rest. Please don’t tell me the system will also associate “anak” with being a Muslim. If that is the case, then claim RM Million of ringgit of damages against the programmer because he/she has breached her/his contractual duty in ensuring the system works according to the desired command.

    Comment by Henry Joseph Usau — June 18, 2015 @ 8:47 PM | Reply

    • Coorection: should read as “…sentimental issue over bin and binti…”
      should read as “….the allegation or truth behind door or Mykad conversion…”

      Comment by Henry Joseph Usau — June 18, 2015 @ 9:00 PM | Reply

  2. Did Bob Teoh also deliberately report that Sabah would be celebrating its 51st independence on August 31 ? Get this fucking fact right once and for all. The independence of Sabah and Sarawak was not on August 31.

    Comment by Awaken Dayak — August 25, 2014 @ 6:38 PM | Reply

    • Well, the fact is if one repeats his lies often enough people will believe it! You may ask Hitler, if you don’t believe me!

      Comment by Ustaz — March 18, 2015 @ 12:39 PM | Reply

  3. the aforesaid picture really mirrors Malaysia – technical glitches, missing aircraft, workplace accidents and unworthy aircraft for flight. We are all waiting for some changes no matter how small. Tidak apa, wait and see, after Raya, after Haji and after budget speech etc etc ……. until Indonesia overtakes Malaysia in all sectors.

    Comment by tun-pehin — August 25, 2014 @ 1:32 PM | Reply

  4. Time for these mycard converts to organise a pork eating festival in likas stadium with representatives from jakim, nrd,home ministery and syariah court to witness their pork chomping and eating talents as evidence of their wrongful conversions and the fault of the gov’t’s islamisation programne. The NRD can change their religion but can’t take away the best and tastiest meat on the planet from their daily diet…the pig, pork and bacon! Cheers NRD!!

    Comment by brian — August 25, 2014 @ 11:35 AM | Reply

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