About 2,000 slogan-shouting Malaysian Muslims gathered near the capital on Saturday to denounce alleged Christian attempts to convert Muslims, widening a religious rift that could cost Prime Minister Najib Razak minority votes in upcoming polls. The rally led by non-governmental bodies comes amid an escalating row over accusations of covert conversions among Muslims and a raid on a Methodist church, which has divided Muslims and angered ethnic minorities.
Men, women and families gathered in a stadium in a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur to unite against what they said were attempts to evangelize Muslims, an offence in a country where over half the population follows Islam.
“We have gathered today to save the faith of Muslims due to the threat of apostasy,” Yusri Mohamad, chairman of the organising committee, told the crowd. “Some people say they (non-Muslims) work hard to spread their religion and that there is nothing wrong with apostasy. These are the voices which we want to drown out with our gathering today.”
Ethnic Malays, who make up over half of the population, are Muslim by birth and constitutionally forbidden to leave the faith. Non-Muslims are guaranteed freedom of worship. The protest follows a recent meeting in a church which was raided by Islamic authorities on suspicion of attempts to convert Muslims. The church said it was a charity meeting.