Muslim converts deserve Bumi rights as ‘special Malays’, says ex-judge

A former Court of Appeals judge says Muslim converts should be considered as ‘special Malays’ and be given the same special rights accorded to their Bumiputera countrymen. ― Reuters pic
A former Court of Appeals judge says Muslim converts should be considered as ‘special Malays’ and be given the same special rights accorded to their Bumiputera countrymen. ― Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 ― Malaysians who convert to Islam should be considered “special Malays” and be given the same special rights accorded to their Bumiputera countrymen, Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah has suggested.

The retired Court of Appeals judge noted that Muslim converts had complained of being given the cold shoulder by government officials just because they are not considered Bumiputera even though their new religion fulfilled a criterion for being “Malay” in the Federal Constitution.

“Converts are ‘special Malays’ which are self-invented by the Constitution,” he was quoted saying by several Malay dailies yesterday after an event in Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

The Federal Constitution defines a constitutional “Malay” as someone who speaks the Malay language, follows the Malay culture, and is a Muslim.

Article 153 further states that the special positions of the Malays and Bumiputera must be safeguarded by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Due to such provisions, race and religion are widely treated as an inseparable subject, leading to a number of flash points over the last few years.

Mohd Noor said Muslim converts had complained of missing out on the perks given their Malay counterparts. 

“The special rights of Malays included the opportunity to purchase Malay reserve lands, Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) and enjoy the intake quota of tertiary institutions,” claimed Mohd Noor.

ASB is a unit trust fund run by fund manager Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), and is exclusive only to the Bumiputera.

“The opportunities given to converts do not mean denying the rights of the Malays, but it will increase the economic and social ‘cake” of the Muslims in the country,” he added.

A non-Muslim can convert into Islam by reciting the declaration of faith, called shahadah, which declares his belief in the oneness of Allah and the acceptance of Muhammad as Allah's prophet.

Most Muslims believe that everybody was born a Muslim but were “deviated to the wrong path” by society or parents, thus calling Muslim converts “reverts” instead.

In December last year, Mohd Noor had also urged Putrajaya to treat the indigenous people in Peninsular Malaysia better as they hold a “more special” constitutional position than the country’s Malays do.