KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — The National Registration Department (NRD) has reversed its unilateral addition of the word “bin” to the name of a Chinese-Muslim child in its records.
According to a Chinese-Muslim businessman in Kuantan by the surname of Khoo, he had discovered the name change two years ago when he was applying for a passport for his eldest son — who had then yet to turn nine.
The 45-year-old man reportedly said the Immigration Department of Malaysia officer had then told him that the addition of the word “bin” was based on the NRD’s data.
“I took out my son’s birth registration papers to check, in the column for name, there is no ‘bin’ at all, I went to meet the National Registration Department’s officer, requesting for an explanation, the latter pointed out it was upon receiving the Islamic department’s advice, for Muslim children’s names without the word ‘Bin’, to add in that word,” he was quoted saying by local daily China Press.
The news report did not mention the name of the relevant Islamic body which had allegedly given the advice to NRD.
He said he could not accept the reason given and had pressed the NRD officer to point out which page of the Muslims’ holy book al-Quran had stated so.
“I also told them, if the name is not restored to its original form with the word ‘Bin’ removed, I do not discount pursuing this further using legal means,” he was also reported saying.
He also said that the addition of the word “bin” to his son’s name was unnecessary, as he was a Muslim but had not changed his ethnicity to be a Malay.
“Finally, the officer allowed my son’s name to be restored,” he said, adding that he found that his youngest son’s name had not been similarly affected.
“The National Registration Department is a body that registers the names of citizens, it is not a religious body, should not unilaterally change the name and information of citizens,” he added.
In Malaysia, the words “bin” and “binti” are commonly used for a child of Malay ethnicity, with these patronyms denoting whether someone is respectively a man’s son or daughter.
Being a Muslim is often closely associated with being a Malay in Malaysia despite religious and ethnic identity being separate matters, as the Federal Constitution’s Article 160 defines a Malay as being among other things a “person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom”.
This has led to problems in east Malaysia, with reported cases of multiple non-Muslim natives in Sabah being wrongly registered by the NRD as Muslims due to the “bin” and “binti” titles in their names.
Last November 12, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak assured Sabahans that the government had no hidden agenda to furtively convert non-Muslims, adding that it was not an Islamic practice to force people to change their religions against their will.
Najib had then said it was the “little Napoleons” that create such problems and that sometimes there was misinterpretation, adding that ways to solve this problem must be found.