Let the heart dictate religion - not the law

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I would like to reply to the letter Islam does not disallow interreligious marriages by Arbibi Ashoy.

The author is both right and wrong at the same time. It is true that Islam allows interfaith marriages if the non-Muslim is female. However, if the non-Muslim partner is male then he has no choice but to convert to Islam so that he can then lead his wife and children in the faith.

In Malaysia, no interfaith marriages are legally allowed if one of the parties is a Muslim. The non-Muslim party has to convert to Islam. While Ashoy argues this is on paper only, and that converts do not necessarily live an Islamic lifestyle, he is missing the point.

He uses the phrase 'forced conversion' and that is where the problem lies. Faith, or religion, is an entirely personal thing and no government or other entity has the right to interfere in a person's faith.

Even though the conversion is on paper only, to society and to the government, the converts are Muslims even though in their hearts they might not be. Anyway, it is hypocritical for a person to convert to Islam and not believe in it, solely for the sake of a marriage.

Additionally, the rules set forth by the government make interfaith marriages difficult and people might shy away from starting a relationship with someone they love solely because of religion. The only thing the rules accomplish is to make one or both parties end up unhappy. How wonderful indeed.

Ashoy said: 'I feel this a shameful campaign because it is done with the intention of weakening the Islamic 'ummah' (society). At a time when Muslims worldwide are being persecuted, Muslims need encouragement instead of being taken to task for their beliefs.'

The aim of the campaign is not to weaken the 'ummah'. The aim is to give people religious freedom so that those that want to be Muslims can be Muslims and those that do not want to need not be. How does this weaken the 'ummah'? Because there might be Muslims leaving Islam?

If that were to be the case, then what does that tell you about Islam itself? The fact that the government needs a clause in the Constitution to ensure that a certain fraction of the population are automatically Muslim is absurd.

Look at Indonesia. There is no penalty for leaving Islam, yet the majority of the population are Muslim and will remain Muslim. Their 'ummah' is stronger because their faith comes from the heart rather than from the law.

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