MyKad shocker for Sabahan non-Muslims
Joe Fernandez, May 14, 10, 2:53pm
Sabahan non-Muslims in their thousands have been registered with 'Islam' as their religion on their MyKads, revealed a Sabah PKR leader today.

According to PKR Sabah deputy chief Christina Liew, they were assumed to be Muslims by the National Registration Department (NRD) solely because of the bin or binti in their names.

The situation has also arisen because many Sabahans have Muslim-sounding names though they do not profess the religion, she said.

NONEJust as it is common for non-Muslims in Sabah to go by names commonly used by Muslims, many Muslims in Sabah also go by names usually associated with Christians, noted Liew.

What is disturbing, however, is the refusal by NRD in the administrative capital of Putrajaya to budge and address the unique situation in Sabah, the lawyer added.

The problem has long affected the Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia.

Many non-Muslims have complained that their religious status in MyKads have either been left empty - with the words tiada (none) for 'religion' - or a religion which is not theirs is entered in their identity documents.

The difference this time, according to the opposition activist, is the magnitude of the current problem.

"The federal cabinet should issue a directive on this issue to the NRD in Putrajaya," said Liew.

"It has been bothering people for quite some time now, and it's time that something was done at the administrative level to fix the problem."

Liew has gone public with the matter after the state NRD director failed to meet her as promised yesterday, said Liew, and this after several postponements to discuss the complainants that she has recieved.

"It's most unfortunate that the state NRD director went back on his word to have a dialogue on the issue," fumed Liew.

"The government of the day must be open, transparent and accountable to the people. It would not hurt anyone to have a dialogue on the issue.

Federal to state 'warning'?

According to sources, the NRD in Putrajaya had warned its Sabah office against going ahead with the dialogue with Liew out of suspicions that she may also raise the issue of illegal immigrants being issued MyKads meant for nationals.

Liew had also proposed to NRD that the Sabah Islamic Affairs Council (JHEAINS), the syariah authorities and other relevant bodies be represented at the dialogue with the Sabah NRD.

NONEThere was no response to her proposal, however, from the government agencies beside the state NRD.

Liew also disclosed that the PKR Public Complaints Bureau, which she heads, has been swamped with several hundred cases of mistaken identity among non-Muslims ever since it was set up recently.

Liew said her own independent research suggests that the problem runs into the thousands.

Further compounding the problem is the practice by the NRD of unilaterally giving Muslim names to non-Muslims in the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak "to make it easier for them to get birth certificates," alleged Liew.

Their problems begin, she explained, when they have to collect their MyKads and find their cards stating their religion as 'Islam'.

Liew said she will embark on a signature drive among affected MyKad holders and seek to submit them together with other relevant evidence to the federal cabinet.

Father and son

She cited the experience of Adenin bin Ahmad, a Christian Dusun from Tuaran, as a case in point.

Both he and his 82-year-old father Joseph Ahmad who still has his baptism certificate - were listed as Muslims by the NRD years ago after they changed their old identity cards in 1999 for the MyKad.

They had sought to change their identity cards to reflect their Christian profession.

Attempts by father and son to rectify thee mistake on their MyKads went unsuccessful, despite having filed statutory declarations to assert that they were not Muslims.

Adenin has been unable to obtain a certificate for his marriage as well as a birth certificate for his three-year-old daughter due to the confusion over his religious status.

Strangely enough, his two other children have birth certificates.

NONEAdenin said he had officially written to JHEAINS to seek its declaration that he is not a Muslim.

On Aug 4 last year, to a letter requesting the department to declare that he is non-Muslim, JHEAINS replied that it could not find Adenin's record in its records of Muslim converts.

Unable to determine his religious status, it was paradoxically suggested to Adenin that he liaise with the syariah court to resolve the issue.

To add insult to injury, the state NRD wrote to him on Jan 25 this year to advise him that his application to change his name and religious status had been rejected.

He was then advised to obtain a declaration from either JHEAINS or the syariah court that he was "no longer" a Muslim, though he has never been a Muslim to begin with.

"Is there such a thing as a 'Muslim' name?" asked Adenin.

"Omar Shariff, the famous Lebanese actor who was born in Egypt, is a Roman Catholic. He's Omar Shariff because he's Arab and Arabs, no matter what their religion, prefer to have Arab names," he noted.

Adenin said he feels the reason he's been passed around like a football between the various authorities is to "make an example of him" and, in the process, make his life miserable.

Adenin also expressed fears that there would be further complications when a family member passes away, as the authorities may seize the body of the deceased for burial as a Muslim.

Double standards

For Muslim Sabahans, however, Liew said the problem of mistaken religious identity has never arisn.

muslim islam malays 250806 waitingMuslims with 'Christian-sounding' names are said to not have faced problems in having 'Islam' registered as their religion in their MyKads, she said.

The NRD in Putrajaya, thus, practices double standards on the issue and is making things difficult for the rakyat "for no rhyme or reason."

"What happened to the 'People First, Performance Now' pledge of the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak under the '1Malaysia' theme of his administration?" asked Christina.

"He should not allow petty bureaucrats to run circles around him and frustrate his administration," she added.

Muslims have their religion stated as "Islam" on the MyKad and this apparently includes non-Muslims with "Muslim" sounding names. Non-Muslims have their religion stated in the chip inside the MyKad and this can only be read by a card reader.

Sabah NRD Director Abdul Jaffear bin Henry, who is Muslim, was not immediately available for comments.