Facebook user claims part of ABIM mission to ‘convert’ Sabah villagers

People gather on the road outside their homes in a village in Ranau. Sabah natives have complained of growing attempts to convert them to Islam. — file picture

KOTA KINABALU, Jan 19 — A Facebook user has claimed to be part of an entourage from the Kedah branch of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) that he said went on a mission to convert villagers from the foothills of Mount Kinabalu.

According to a Facebook post from the user with the screen name “Kapten Al Fateh”, he was sanctioned by the movement to be part of a group on an Islamic mission to proselytise to villagers in Ranau, a Dusun community of mixed religions.

The post was accompanied by a photo of a letter from the movement, requesting its holder be granted leave in order to make a week-long visit from January 19 to 25 for a “program menyantuni saudara baru di pedalaman Sabah (programme to welcome new brothers in Sabah’s interior)”.

 “Antara programnya ialah menghantar bantuan kepada Saudara Baru dan juga mengIslamkan penduduk di sana… mohon doakan keselamatan kami sepanjang program ini. (Among our programmes is to send assistance to our new brothers and also Islamise villagers there. Please pray for our safety during this programme.)

 “Doakan agar ramai penduduk terbuka hatinya pada Islam seterusnya melafazkan Syahadah. (Pray that more villagers will open their hearts to Islam and declare the syahadah,” he wrote on his post.

The syahadah, Arabic for “testimony”, is the phrase recited during the first steps of an individual’s conversion to Islam.

ABIM Kedah, when contacted by Malay Mail Online, confirmed the letter, but denied that there were any conversion activities carried out.

Exco member Hazwan Syah Niezam Hanif explained that the programme was in collaboration with a local mosque in Kampung Tundangan in Ranau and around 10 members of their entourage from peninsular Malaysia were visiting the village.

“We are not Islamising anybody. There are people who have already converted and we are having a kenduri for them. We are just visiting,” said Hazwan when contacted by Malay Mail Online.

“Don’t believe what you read on social media just because it’s viral. That’s just somebody writing it. The letter doesn’t say that we are (converting new people to Islam),” he continued.

When asked to clarify the role of the Facebook user, however, Hazwan conceded that the “Kapten Al Fateh” individual had been part of the ABIM entourage, but stressed that the latter was not a member.

Sabah natives have complained of growing attempts to convert them to Islam including some that allegedly involve coercion or deception.

Proselytisation of religions other than Islam to Muslims is illegal in Malaysia, but not vice versa.