The recent Malaysiakini report 'Sabah to Crack Down on Apostates' is one more of those steps that aim to completely erode the Malaysia Agreement of 1963.
The report stated that Sabah will open a Faith Rehabilitation Centre next year to enforce anti-apostasy laws. This is very saddening and even more saddening is that the statement was made on Christmas Day. A very beautiful Christmas gift indeed for Sabahans.
Section 64 of Title VI in the Malaysia Agreement says that the establishment or maintenance of Muslim institutions in Sabah should have the consent of the governor. This means that such an act should first be passed in the state assembly. Section 65 of title VI meanwhile says that Article 11(4) of the federal constitution which allows for states to prohibit the propagation on non-Islamic religions to Muslims shall not apply to Sabah.
If propagating non-Muslim faiths to Muslims is permissible in Sabah, then there is no reason why a Muslim person cannot convert out.
The truth is that in Sabah, more people convert to Islam every day than those who convert out. Most of those who convert out of Islam are people who are not originally Muslims. However in Sabah, this is a sensitive issue and nobody makes a big fuss of it.
In fact those who have left Islam mingle freely with Muslims, and the subject is never touched upon. Those who have converted out do not go around bragging how they left Islam.
Converts to Islam however are free to talk about why and how they became Muslims on television or in the newspapers. Converts out of Islam might have to pay fines. Converts to Islam are paid cash as is reported by the Zakat magazine published by the Sabah Islamic Religious Counci (Muis).
So, why this sudden urge to build a Faith Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah? It is a slap on the face to religious freedom. It is probably the first of its kind in Borneo. It is against Borneo culture as a person's religion is his personal matter here.
In Borneo, blood relations, traditions and culture count more than religious profession. One can be of any faith, but a Dusun would always be a Dusun and a Murut always a Murut. There are also famlies where the members are of various faiths.
In fact Sabah is probably the only state in Malaysia where inter-marriage between Muslims and Christians was common until very recently. Unfortunately, there are those who do not see this as harmonious living but consider it wrong.
To these people seeing others living happily hurts them so much that they want to create tension by locking up individuals and separating people from their families.
Non-Muslim leaders in Sabah like the Joseph Pairin Kitingan, Bernard Dompok and Joseph Kurup should speak against the building of such centres. Many Sabahans will turn against each other more so in the districts of Ranau and Keningau where one cannot tell where a Muslim village begins and where a Christian one ends.
Please do not destroy the harmony in Sabah. There is enough damage already.
Don't turn Sabah into another Malaya (peninsular Malaysia). And we thought all this talk of 1Malaysia would make Malaya more harmonious like Sabah, yet we get the opposite, where Sabah is heading for religious and racial polarisation just like Malaya.