Where Persecution Comes From
The constitution of Malaysia prohibits conversion for Malays and the propagation of non-Muslim religions. Political parties like the ruling UMNO (United Malays National Organization) and the opposing Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) uphold and protect Islam, and government officials strive to maintain and expand Islamic influence on society, to the detriment of non-Muslim minorities like Christians. Muslim NGOs that pride themselves on being the “champions of Islam” have secured strong governmental support, often stirring up racial disharmony and religious discrimination. For Christians from Muslim backgrounds, the strongest drivers of Christian persecution are immediate and extended family members.
How Christians are Suffering
Converts from Islam in Malaysia experience the worst persecution, as every ethnic Malay is considered Muslim. Converts are viewed as law-breakers, as well as traitors to society, their families and neighbors. While authorities and Muslim NGOs monitor Roman Catholics and Methodists, the majority of persecution focuses on non-traditional Protestant groups who are active in evangelism. The president of the PAS political party, Hadi Awang, openly slanders Christians by claiming they use money to incentivize conversions. His party recently also promoted the introduction of the Islamic penal code (known as hudud law) in the northeastern state of Kelantan. This law has sown much discord and hatred towards Christians.
When conversion to Christianity is discovered, converts are usually reported to Islamic authorities or expelled from their community. Conversion excludes them from the hereditary order; if they are married to a Muslim, they often lose custody rights to their children.
The government requires all children in state-run nursery and primary schools to receive Islamic education. After primary school, Muslim students (including Christians from a Muslim background) are required to take Islamic classes. At the university level is a compulsory subject called “Islamic and Asian Civilization,” thought by many to be a government instrument for further Islamization.
In February 2017, unknown assailants abducted Pastor Raymond Koh in broad daylight. Another couple, Pastor Joshua and Ruth Hilmy, has been missing since November 2016, their whereabouts unknown.