Orang Asli demand to be left alone by Islamic preachers

Anjang said Orang Asli children in Gerik are being taught Islam in schools and forced to fast, against their parents’ wishes. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Anjang said Orang Asli children in Gerik are being taught Islam in schools and forced to fast, against their parents’ wishes. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 — The Orang Asli community from Gerik in Hulu Perak have asked to be left alone by religious preachers after claiming to being ‘Islamised’ without their consent.

A group of 35 Temiar ethnics from the villages of Kampung Tasik Asal Cunex, Kampung Ong Jelmol, Kampung Sungai Leyef, Kampung Sungai Papan, and Kampung Pos Pia were in Parliament today to hand over a memorandum of understanding to government.

The group’s spokesman, Anjang Aluej, said that the issue has been ongoing for many years, with many finding their religion had been registered under Islam, in their identitification cards, despite not having converted in the first place.

“It is a big offence to us as we should be given prior and informed consent before such changes are made,” he told reporters here.

Anjang also said at present, Orang Asli children are being taught Islam in schools and forced to fast, against their parents’ wishes.

“It is as if we do not have the freedom to choose our religion. Not only we are we slowly losing our land, we are also losing our identity.

“I would like to also emphasise that this also applies to Christian proselytisers who come into our villages to spread the Christian faith. Please leave us and our customs alone,” he said.

The group’s memorandum also protested against the logging and tin mining activities at the Orang Asli’s traditional lands (tanah adat), and plans for hydro-electric dams which could inundate traditional lands with no compensation for them.

“Other issues which we are concerned about include illegal hunting by outsiders in our lands, and the presence of foreigners in our villages without prior notice.

“As well as this, mothers are being forced to take family planning medications without reason, and the frequent bullying and discrimination by our children in schools, which have caused us to lose faith in the system to defend our rights,” Anjang said.

The memorandum was received by Orang Asli Development Department director-general Prof Juli Edo.