By Debra Chong
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 — Two Malay dailies alleged today that Christian organizations are carrying out covert missions to convert poverty-stricken Muslims by offering them cash, free food and housing in a follow-up to a controversial church raid this week.
In its frontpage story titled “Sogok wang gadai akidah” [“Cash bribes faith pawned”], Berita Harian reported that certain organizations were hiding behind the guise of welfare aid and offering all manner of monthly cash allowances of at least RM1,000 to hard-hit Muslims and their families in an attempt to turn them into Christians.
The pro-Barisan Nasional newspaper did not name any of the organizations but posted a pixelised photo of a woman on its cover, which it captioned as “Jasmine admits receiving aid from a community church in Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya”.
Last Wednesday, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) partnered the police and burst in on a multiracial dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in Petaling Jaya based on a report that the Christian majority crowd was allegedly proselytizing to Muslim guests, triggering a nationwide uproar.
The religious enforcement force, which answers directly to the Sultan of Selangor as head of Islam in the frontline state, has been slammed for purportedly violating the rights of the minority non-Muslim community.
Selangor executive councillor in charge of Islamic affairs Datuk Hasan Ali broke ranks with the state Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration when he rose to defend Jais’ act, which he said was based on a complaint that the Christians had used the words “Quran” and “pray” in front of Muslims which he noted was a breach of Islamic law.
While not referring to any specific church, the national Malay daily said, “Each participant is promised a ‘new life’ by the organisation’s leader who portrayed himself as a ‘saviour’ if he follows the arranged programme, including changing his religion.”
It cited interviews with two former participants whom it named only as “Adazhan” and “Jasmine” who “admitted” to having received such aide and taken part in the programmes out of desperation.
Adazhan, said to be in his 30s, claimed he had been trained to become a “priest” for 10 years and convert his Muslim family.
“Before, I was given RM500 a month. For those with wives, they get an extra RM300 and RM 100 for each child… Now, the amount of financial aid has increased and it is understood some get more than RM1,000 a month,” Berita Harian quoted him as saying.
“I believe many have been duped after swallowing the persuasion and feel obligated with the aid received. Only, they fear to change their religious status in their MyKad,” Adazhana told Berita Harian yesterday.
Jasmine, whom the paper said was detained last Wednesday during the Jais church raid, revealed that Muslim participants were “forbidden to believe in Prophet Muhamad [pbuh], but was asked to follow the teachings of ‘Nabi Isa’ [Prophet Jesus] through talks and songs during the entire function”.
“They promised to settle all problems before the target is brought to attend the get-to-know you sessions and secretive talks. Usually, interest to join the organization arises after listening to speeches from religious leaders from Sabah, Sarawak and Indonesia,” reported Berita Harian quoting the woman as saying, adding she joined the church organization two years ago.
Bestselling Malay tabloid Harian Metro also highlighted a similar story on its front page today under the title “Kami diberi Bible versi Melayu” [We were given Malay Bibles].
It alleged that Christian evangelists were using the “soft approach” to persuade Malays to convert from Islam to Christianity.
“The evangelists or pastor never forced me to enter their religion but persisted using the soft approach through persuasion apart from helping me until the end until I felt I owed them and complied with following their religious programme which normally happens twice a week,” it quoted an unnamed woman detained during the DUMC raid as saying.
“We were given a Malay version of the bible and supplied with a tape recording containing religious songs to memorise before being exposed to talks that rejected Islam and Prophet Muhammad [pbuh],” she said.
In the same story continuing on page 12 of the newspaper today, Harian Metro claimed there was an “underground” community of Malay Christians that had spread throughout the Klang Valley and covered Kelantan and Terengganu.
Both newspapers are published by The New Straits Times Press Bhd, a unit of the Umno-linked media giant Media Prima Bhd.