Malaysian Christians most opposed to proselytising while majority of Hindus okay with followers leaving, survey shows

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 — At 98 per cent, Malaysian Muslim respondents in a recent survey universally felt it is unacceptable for a follower to leave Islam, while nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) felt the same way against persuading others to join Islam.

Pew Research Center’s latest survey released tonight showed that among the four major religious groups in Malaysia, local Christians were the most opposed to proselytising (at 75 per cent, and at a higher proportion than Muslims), followed by Buddhists (70 per cent), and Hindus (68 per cent).

Additionally, Hindus had the biggest proportion who found it acceptable for a fellow adherent to leave the faith at 68 per cent, followed by Christians (61 per cent), and Buddhists (51 per cent).

“Most adults across religious groups say it is unacceptable to leave one’s own religion. This view is especially common among Muslims in Malaysia (98 per cent), Thailand (93 per cent) and Indonesia (92 per cent),” Pew said in the report.

“But large majorities of Buddhists in Cambodia (82 per cent), Sri Lanka (74 per cent) and Thailand (69 per cent) also say it is unacceptable for someone to leave Buddhism for another religion.

“Buddhists in Malaysia and Singapore — where Buddhism is not the majority religion — are significantly less likely to take this position,” it added.

Across the six Asian countries surveyed, the report also found that there was only one exception where the majority of a faith group was supportive of proselytisation: six in 10 Christians in Singapore said it is acceptable, compared to 39 per cent who felt otherwise.

Article 3 of the Federal Constitution states that “Islam is the religion of the Federation, but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation”.

This is usually read with Article 11 which states “every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it”, but subject to restrictions against “propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam”.

The survey by the US-based non-partisan think tank was carried out in six countries in Asia from June 1 to September 4, 2022, for the report titled “Buddhism, Islam and Religious Pluralism in South and Southeast Asia”, where 13,122 adults were interviewed.

In Malaysia, a total of 1,999 adults were polled through computer-assisted telephone interviewing using mobile phones from June 1 to August 9, 2022 in the languages of Chinese, English and Malay, with a margin of error of 3.0 percentage points.

Out of those, 75 per cent said they were Muslims, followed by Christians (10 per cent), Buddhists (7 per cent), Hindus (5 per cent), while 2 per cent said they have no religion, and 1 per cent said they are followers of Chinese traditional religions (which includes Tao, Confucian, or Chinese local religions).

According to the latest census by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) in 2020, Malaysia’s population is comprised of 63.5 per cent Muslims, followed by Buddhists (18.7 per cent), Christians (9.1 per cent), Hindus (6.1 per cent), and others (2.7 per cent).