MALAYSIA – Christian politician criticised by Muslims for publishing book about her faith
The federal constitution of Malaysia states that “every person has the right to profess and practice his religion”. Yet in Selangor (one of Malaysia’s 13 states) a Christian politician, Hannah Yeoh, is under fire for publishing a book about her faith. The Speaker of the Selangor Assembly, Hannah Yeoh, is being legally harassed by a Muslim university lecturer, who claims that she has a “Christian agenda” because she wrote an autobiography which tells how her Christian faith helped her choose a career path in public service.
Her accuser Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, a lecturer at Universiti Utara Malaysia, lodged a complaint with the police, alleging Yeoh was promoting a “Christian agenda” in her 2015 book, entitled, “Becoming Hannah: A Personal Journey by Hannah Yeoh”. In his official complaint, Yusoff said: “I believe this book is an attempt to persuade, influence or incite non-Christians, including Muslims, to embrace Christianity or become inclined towards Christianity”.
Yeoh’s book, entitled, “Becoming Hannah: A Personal Journey by Hannah Yeoh”, which was published in 2015, is now at the centre of allegations of “proselytising”. While proselytising against Islam is an offence in Malaysia, Yeoh’s book simply reports on her experiences in the context of her faith which is not a criminal offence. Also, she did not promote the book to Muslims.
Religious minorities in Asia are increasingly being subjected to potential abuses of the law as a result of unsubstantiated allegations, even in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia which, till now, were considered to be relatively “tolerant” towards religious minorities. This type of illiberality, when it comes to misleading interpretations of the law as it relates to religious freedom and freedom of conscience, regrettably appears to be gaining strength across the Muslim world. Recently in nearby Indonesia, Ahok, Jakarta’s former Christian governor, was imprisoned for two years on trumped up charges of blasphemy.