The Orang Asli in Kelantan are not being coerced into embracing Islam, according to the state exco overseeing Islamic development Nassuruddin Daud.
He said those who converted as a result of dakwah (propagation of Islam) by NGOs and the Kelantan Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (Maik) had done so on their own accord.
"Maik preaches (Islam), not forced (conversion),” he told FMT.
Nassuruddin also pointed out that efforts to propagate Islam among the Orang Asli in Kelantan should not be questioned as this was in line with the status of Islam as the official religion of the federation.
"The dakwah should not be questioned as it does not go against the Federal Constitution.
"By right, parties should question the move to propagate religions other than Islam among the Orang Asli because that is in clear conflict with the constitution," he added.
Nassuruddin was responding to those who expressed unhappiness with Maik deputy chairperson Nik Mohd Azlan Abd Hadi's remarks that the state plans to convert all the Orang Asli in Kelantan to Islam within 30 years.
At present, Nik Mohd Azlan said some 5,000 of the 16,000 Orang Asli in the interiors of Kelantan had converted to Islam.
Commenting on this, Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) director-general Juli Edo said it is inappropriate to take advantage of Orang Asli communities and trick them into religious conversion.
Meanwhile, Pasir Mas MP Ahmad Fadli Shaari also defended Maik and dismissed the argument that Kelantan prioritised religious beliefs over infrastructure development for the Orang Asli.
He said there are other agencies in charge of infrastructure development, while the religious council is focused on the Orang Asli's spiritual beliefs.
"Maik is an institution that takes care of Islamic affairs [...] therefore the statement to 'convert' the Orang Asli is in line with their portfolio.
"So various parties will focus on their own areas of work," he told FMT.