Interfaith Marriage Trap in Malaysia
This is an article from a book – Interfaith Marriage: Share and Respect with Equality written by Dr. Dilip Amin. This article shows how unfair Muslim majority nations are to their minorities.
I’m a Malay (Malaysian Muslim) man married to a Catholic girl. She had a Muslim name after (Islamic marriage) registration but she remains Catholic. So are my children, they are all raised Catholic. I too don’t practice Muslim faith and follow my wife’s faith. I live in an area that is mostly non-Muslim to avoid problem. —Syed
Dr. Amin replied:
We are sympathetic to your situation. Ideally, one should have freedom of religion. Unfortunately this is not possible in Muslim majority countries like Malaysia. Lets us explain issues that you will face (Read below).
Your wife converted to Islam for your nikaah and was given a new Muslim name for your marriage registration. That name is (probably) in her Malaysian MyKad ID card and passport. Further, her ID card (probably) says her faith as “Islam.”
Your children will also have Muslim names and their ID will ultimately have “Islam” on it. This will go on for your grand children and great grandchildren; even if none of you wish to follow Islam. Now any time any one of you tries to change the Muslim name to a Catholic name, Malay government will not allow and will punish you.
Any time your children and great grand children marry to any one other than a Muslim, the non-Muslim party will have to convert to Islam. When any of you die, the Malay Sharia police may come and take away the dead body from your Catholic family and give a Muslim final rite. So, in your after life, you may wish to meet Jesus but you will go with Mohammad.
Any time if any one reports to the Sharia police that you (or your great grandchildren) are practicing a non-Muslim faith, you will be in deep trouble for apostasy.
Bottom line, you think you are fooling the Malay government but in reality you and your all future generations are in a trap, you can’t escape (unless you move out of Malaysia). You can run, but not hide. It is only a matter of time. As far we are concerned, people should not follow your footsteps.
It is notable that refugees and immigrant Muslims in Christian majority nations demand religious equality but most Muslim majority nations[Ref Hiddush] have created laws to marginalize Christians and non-Muslim minorities.
Syed, it is certainly sad that your liberty to express your faith is taken away by the government. This is not fair. We wish you the best.
 Hiddush (marriage.hiddush.org) conducted Freedom of Marriage survey and found severe marriage restrictions in 62% Muslim, 7% Christian but not in Hindu/Buddhist (0%) majority nations.
Unfair Malaysian Marriage Laws
The Malaysian constitution grants freedom of religion and makes it an officially secular state, while establishing Islam as the “religion of the Federation” to symbolize its importance to Malaysian society. Interfaith love with a Malay is one of the most popular themes at InterfaithShaadi. The question raised below by Sameer is a typical question by such youths.
My fiancée is a Chinese Malaysian (non-Muslim) and I am (non-Malaysian) Muslim. I don’t want my fiancée to convert (to Islam). What are our chances to marry in Singapore and apply for a long term visa in Malaysia? What will happen if I say I am not Muslim? —Sameer
It gave great pain to the author to disclose to these innocent lovers that only option left for them is to 1) give up this love relationship or 2) unwillingly convert the non-Muslim intended spouse to Islam if they want to settle in Malaysia. Let’s look at Malaysian marriage laws to understand the complexity there.
In Malaysia, the Federal Constitution is supreme and the freedom of religion is something that is guaranteed by the constitution under Article 11. When it comes to Family Law (namely marriage), there are two primary statutes, the Law Reform (marriage and divorce) Act 1976 (Civil Marriage) and the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984 (Muslim Marriage). The Civil Marriage Act of 1976 specifically states, “This Act shall not apply to a Muslim.” Hence, in Malaysia there is no means for a Muslim to marry a non-Muslim under the Civil law. In fact, the Muslim who goes through a marriage or even cohabits with non-Muslim runs the risk of falling foul of a number of offences under State Syariah (the Malay spelling of “Sharia”) Criminal Law prohibiting fornication (zina) and close proximity (khalwat).,
A Muslim must register his/her marriage under Islamic Family Law Act 1984. A marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims is prohibited under Islamic law, except in certain limited circumstances. A Muslim Man is allowed to marry a Kitabayah (People of the Book). A Kitabayah is a Christian woman whose ancestors were Christians before the prophethood of the Prophet Mohammad; or a Jewess whose ancestors were Jews before the prophethood of Jesus. With many other restrictions in place, in most cases, the non-Muslim needs to convert to Islam to register a marriage in Malaysia.
It is said that there is no compulsion in Islam, but here in all practical senses interfaith couples must know that there is compulsion to convert or give up the love after years into relationship.
Malaysian citizens are given an identity card (MyKad), of which Muslims’ MyKad states religion as “Islam.” As stated above Muslims can marry only to a Muslim; this means the non-Muslim spouse must convert and make appropriate changes in the MyKad.
A marriage registered under the laws of a foreign country must be re-registered at the Malaysian Representative Office within 6 months of the date of marriage. A couple married outside Malaysia will not be able to register a Muslim to non-Muslim marriage in Malaysia and their children will not have the benefit of Malaysian citizenship. If the Muslim/non-Muslim couple married overseas comes to Malaysia, and someone calls the authorities on them, the Syariah authority will likely arrest the Muslim partner for zina and khalwat (since the marriage is not recognized in Malaysia).
Parallel to the civil courts, there are Syariah Courts that conduct legal matters related to the Muslim family sphere. Legal issues like Muslim divorce and Muslim apostasy are conducted in the Syariah Courts. Syariah laws do not apply to non-Muslims.
It is important for an interfaith dating person to know that conversion to Islam is a one-way street. It is impossible to convert to any other faith for a Muslim. It is even impossible to change a name in MyKad to a non-Muslim in Malaysia (read practicing Hindu Revathi Massosai’s case). A person having a Muslim registered name but practicing another faith has no right to marry but in Islam (read Zarinah’s case where a practicing Hindu girl was arrested for marrying a Hindu man). Even after years of practicing another faith, the Syariah Police will enforce that a former Muslim (even practicing another faith for most of later life) be given only Muslim final rites (read Mr. Moorthy case where a practicing Hindu’s body was taken away from his Hindu wife).
The author feels Muslim majority countries apply interfaith marriage laws favoring Islam only and are unfair and unjust to minorities. To the best of the author’s knowledge, there is no Christian or Hindu majority country that has made interfaith marriage laws favoring only their majority. If it is a matter of following Koran, then any Muslim getting into a romantic love relationship before marriage should be severely punished for khalwat. The Malay government should do more to educate non-Muslim and Muslim youths about the serious consequences after interfaith love. Interfaith dating youths have to do their homework and fully understand all the legal and other consequences of their actions.
 As defined by the Constitution of Malaysia, Malays must be Muslim, regardless of their ethnic heritage; otherwise, legally, they are not Malay (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Malaysia).
 A secular marriage is possible in Singapore, read details here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrimonial_law_of_Singapore.
 Laws of Malaysia, Act 164 (https://unstats.un.org/unsd/vitalstatkb/KnowledgebaseArticle50620.aspx).
 Dr. Zakir Naik explained Koran (24:30) as when a Muslim man sees a woman the Muslim man has to “lower his gaze” and show his modesty. View details here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foLbqR6fBf8.
 Koran 2:221; also the Malaysian Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984- Section 10. Persons of other religions: (1) No man shall marry a non-Muslim except a Kitabiyah and (2) No woman shall marry a non-Muslim.
 Koran 2:256.
 Details at http://www.jpn.gov.my/en/perkhidmatan/pendaftaran-semula-perkahwinan-bagi-pasangan-bukan-islam-yang-telah-didaftarkan-mengikut-undang-undang-negara-asing-pada-atau-selepas-01-03-1982/.
 Read Loyarburuk at http://www.loyarburok.com/2008/07/10/muslim-non-muslim-marriages-in-malaysia/.
 Mohammad said, “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Bukhari 9.84.57) Read more at http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/12/malaysia-islamic-agency-vows-to-enforce-islamic-apostasy-law and http://www.wikiislam.net/wiki/Persecution_of_Ex-Muslims. Even a former non-Muslim’s marriage with a Muslim ends with him uttering talaak, talaak, talaak, the divorcee has no right to marry a non-Muslim later in life.
 Miss Revathi Massosai was born to Muslim converts and given a Muslim name, but she was raised as a Hindu by her grandmother and has always practiced Hindu faith. However, under Malaysia’s Islamic law, having Muslim parents makes one a Muslim and, as such, one is not allowed to change one’s faith or marry a non-Muslim. But Miss Massosai married a Hindu man in 2004 and the couple has a young daughter. When in January 2007 she asked a court to officially designate her a Hindu she was detained and taken to an Islamic rehabilitation center. Her detention was twice extended to six months, during which time she says religious officials tried to make her pray as a Muslim and wear a headscarf. She is adamant that she will remain a Hindu. In the meantime, Miss Revathi and her daughter have been placed in the custody of her Muslim parents. (taken from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6278568.stm)
 Zarinah had Hindu father and mother. Later the father converted to Islam and changed children’s name to Islamic, but in all practical matters Zarinah was raised as Hindu. Now she decided to marry her Hindu lover, but Malaysian police came and arrested her in the middle of the Hindu wedding. Zarinah said there was a possibility that she could be charged with insulting Islam if the problem was not solved quickly. (taken from http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/path-to-leave-islam-simple-but-far-from-easy)
 M Moorthy, a Malaysian mountaineering hero was buried as a Muslim, against the wishes of his Hindu wife, who denied he had converted to Islam before his death. The decision follows a Malaysian High Court ruling that it cannot override the country’s Islamic Courts in matters of religious conversion. An Islamic Syariah Court subsequently upheld a claim by his former colleagues in the army that he had become a Muslim last year. However his family, who wanted him to have a Hindu funeral, was not allowed to appear before the court to dispute his conversion because they are not Muslims. The family went to the civil court and argued that Mr. Moorthy was a practicing Hindu. They say he was even interviewed for local television two months ago about his preparations for the Hindu festival of Diwali. But the High Court agreed with government lawyers who argued the Civil Court had no jurisdiction. Taken from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4563452.stm.
 Koran (24:30); see details earlier about “lowering gaze” by Dr. Zakir Naik.