Singapore, Apr 11: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said it would be mandatory for non-Muslim Malaysians converting to Islam to declare their new religious status to their family members. ''We do not want the religious department saying the deceased was a Muslim but the family members disputing it because he or she converted on the quiet,'' he told reporters in the Malaysian capital Putrajaya yesterday.
Under the new proposed law, non-Muslims who convert to Islam, must be in possession of documents stating that they had informed their family members about their conversion, he informed. Chairing a meeting of the National Council on Islamic Religious Affairs, Mr Badawi said the ultra-sensitive religious issues must be tackled wisely and that he did not want them to cause racial tension.
He especially highlighted demolition of houses of worship, conversions and funeral disputes.
Predominantly Muslim Malaysia had a number of growing disputes on burial of converts while their family members sought legal and court orders to cremate the dead according to their original religion and race.
The Malaysian government has also been blamed for insensitively demolishing a number of Hindu temples in recent years, which according to local authorities were illegally located on state-owned sites.
Malaysia has about two million ethnic Indian Hindus with thousands of temples built across the country since they migrated more than 100 years ago. The country also has a significantly larger Chinese Christian population.
Industry observers said Mr Badawi was trying to correct the government's pro-Muslim and pro-indigenous Malay images, after his ruling coalition Barisan Nasional lost 82 parliamentary seats out of the 222 contested to opposition political parties, mostly made up of Chinese, Indians and Malays that were no longer align with the ruling government.
It was the BN's worst performance and for the first time left the ruling government without a two-third majority to rule the country.