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KOTA KINABALU, March 5 — For the past seven years, Alan Umil, a pagan Dusun like most of those in his community, has been formally identified as Bajau Muslim in official documents, owing to the alleged refusal of Sabah officials to rectify the mistake in his MyKad.
But according to his daughter Rina, the 63-year-old man does not subscribe to Islam and does not plan to, having grown up in Membakut along Sabah’s west coast where his family and others in the Dusun community of Kampung Pinopok have practiced animism for generations.
Although many religions were introduced to the Dusun community over the decades, many of the tribe elders have felt more comfortable clinging on to their traditional beliefs.
Alan is among them, Rina told Malay Mail Online. She said her father had raised his family to share his belief in the Gods of nature, and even visits the temple on occasion and observes the Chinese New Year.
Some among his nine offspring, however, embraced new religious beliefs after getting married, she said.
Rina explained that seven years ago, Alan went to the National Registration Department (NRD) office in Beaufort to collect his new MyKad and was taken aback when it had the word “Islam” on it.
“He tried to reason with the staff then but he was told to go to the Islamic religious department to get it sorted out,” the 31-year-old told Malay Mail Online in a phone interview.
Since then, Alan had his MyKad changed twice because it was damaged but despite telling the staff and bringing his birth certificate for verification, the world “Islam” remained.
“The last time we went to the NRD, they refused to rectify the situation. My father is getting old and less mobile these days.
“He is not able to just go to Kota Kinabalu and to the Islamic department,” said Rina, a former kindergarten assistant who is now at home to look after her parents.
She, along with non governmental organisation Pertubuhan Angkatan Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (Agaras) president Michael Frederick lodged a police report at the Membakut police station yesterday to ask NRD to rectify the mistake.
The report also stated that her father was listed as a Bajau in the NRD department’s records.
“Over the years we have faced several problems with registrations and official documents. There’s usually issues because our father is declared Muslim but none of us are, which creates problems.
“We are also worried that when he passes away, the Islamic department will want the burial to be done the Muslim way. We are worried about the problems we will be facing if this is not rectified now,” said Rina, who is the fifth of nine children.
Michael said that the issue was taken up by the NRD office in Papar after the report was lodged yesterday.
“At first, they also directed us to Wisma Muis and the religious affairs department but another officer later said we could bring in the applicant for an interview, along with his documents for verification.
“We will be following up and hope that there is no delay in the rectification of this problem. This is not the first time this issue has happened in Sabah and many are still facing the problem,” he said.
Sabahans face continued issues of unwarranted “Islamisations”, mostly with rural Christians. In Sabah, the “bin” and “binti” prefix does not denote religion, which may confuse some peninsular Malaysians in the NRD.
Two years ago, a Sabah church lodged a report of 162 cases of the wrong classification of Christians as Muslims in their MyKads which has caused many issues including preventing them from getting married legally, which in turn prevented the registration of the birth of their children, as well as the children’s registration in schools and applications for their own identity cards.