Religion is not a one-size-fits-all sweater that everyone is comfortable with donning. Some choose to be without it and some rely on the warmth that it provides.
In a utopian world where everything is fair and people have complete freedom, religion would be a concept that humans can practice freely without the interjection and oppression by pious officials. But we don’t live in a utopia, we live in reality and the truth is, religious zealousness is hurting the identity of the Orang Asli.
In Gerik, Hulu Perak, Islam and Christianity are permeating into the walls of many schools that teach Orang Asli children. This occurrence has been affecting 35 Temiar ethnics from the villages of Kampung Tasik Asal Cunex, Kampung Ong Jelmol, Kampung Sungai Leyef, Kampung Sungai Papan, and Kampung Pos Pia, which lead them to hand over a memorandum of understanding to the government recently, according to Malay Mail.
Unbeknownst to the winsome children in these villages, they are being force-fed the religion of Islam and Christianity by preachers without their consent. Against their parents’ wishes, these children are taught to pray and demanded to fast despite not being a Muslim/Christian or having any familial ties to the religions at all.
These acts encroach the Orang Asli’s right to practice their own religion and to cultivate individuality by altering their identity without their knowledge or consent. Reportedly, on their identification cards, Orang Asli are being converted to Islam through documentation despite not having committed to the religion in their daily lives.
The issue has since reached its pinnacle, catalysing a call-to-action where the spokesmen from the 35 Temiar ethnic villages, Anjang Aluej, had this to say,
“It is as if we do not have the freedom to choose our religion. Not only are we slowly losing our land, we are also losing our identity.”
Anjang conveyed that Christian missionaries are proselytising their religion as well, and his collation of Temiar communities wish them to stop:
“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.”
To initiate a change, the aforementioned MoU was handed in Parliament last Tuesday (July 9). This memorandum also includes a protest against the logging and tin mining activities at the Orang Asli’s traditional lands (tanah adat), and plans for hydro-electric dams.
Other issues such as forcing mothers to take birth control shots without reason and illegal hunting are brought up as well.
The memorandum, addressed to PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was received by Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) director-general Dr Juli Edo.
In our opinion, the adoption of any religion should be embraced with sincerity and an open heart, and not pummelled into someone until they give in and break.
While charitable works for the Orang Asli is something all religious organisations can get behind, you can’t force someone into a sweater that doesn’t fit them without expecting it to hurt them or tear the article of clothing into frayed pieces. They have to put it on, willingly.
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