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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 9 — Muslims and those who convert to Islam have the freedom to choose their own names and they need not include the words “bin” or “binti”, a Muslim evangelical group has said.
Weighing in on the controversy surrounding the National Registration Department’s (NRD) unilateral decision to include the word “bin” to a Chinese Muslim boy’s name, the Multiracial Reverted Muslims (MRM) said that there is no such compulsory requirement in Islam.
"Before I answer the question, let's understand the meaning of bin or binti. Bin means 'the son of' meanwhile binti means 'the daughter of'.
“There is no clear evidence that one must put bin or binti when someone becomes a Muslim, in the Quran or Hadith,” MRM president Firdaus Wong Wai Hung, a Muslim convert and Islamic preacher told Malay Mail Online.
"There is one evidence in Surah Al-Ahzab, Chapter 33, Verse no. 5 which says; ‘Call them by [the names of] their fathers’ — but this is related to surname rather than the issue that we are discussing now.
"If a Chinese in Malaysia becomes a Muslim, they can fully retain the original name or they have the option to add on any name with good meaning. It is up to them," Wong explained.
The incident involving the Chinese Muslim boy was reported by local vernacular daily China Press, who quoted the 45-year-old unnamed boy's father as saying that the Immigration Department officer had told him that the addition of the word “bin” was based on the NRD’s data.
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 news report did not mention the name of the relevant Islamic body which had allegedly given the advice to NRD.
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 Malay.
The paper reported that the matter was later resolved with the boy having his original name restored, after the father reportedly threatened to pursue legal action.
"They can retain their original name as long as the meaning of the name is good and not the name of deities or names with no meaning or bad meaning. This applies to all including those born Muslims too.
"Normally those from Indian or Sikh background they will have bin or binti to the name of their biological father. Example is Shah Kirit a/l Kakulal Govindji, but once he becomes Muslim, he (may choose to) retain his name, but just change from anak lelaki to bin — Shah Kirit bin Kakulal Govindji," Wong said.
"Everyone should be given the freedom to choose the names they desire as long as it doesn't go against the law of the land and touch on the sensitivity of others. For NRD to add bin or binti to a children (sic) when their parents never agreed to it is not something that NRD should do in the first place," he said adding that those who convert to Islam are not automatically Malays or even Arabs.
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 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.