Nicholas Sylvester, who heads the Muslim missionary group Hidayah Centre Foundation (HCF), said all new Muslim converts should get special treatment.
“As Muslims, we are very happy that a person decides to embrace Islam, we would welcome them, support them and take care of them in ways that we are capable of.
“It is the right of new Muslims to get special attention from the Muslims. The Terengganu government did the right thing. In fact, all new Muslims should be accorded similar special treatment,” the HCF founder and chairman told Malay Mail Online in an email response.
Last Saturday, Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman announced the “adoption” of 19-year-old Woo Nina Grace to enable her to better understand Islam, saying that the Terengganu Religious Affairs Department will give her appropriate facilities and guidance.
Woo, who publicly converted to Islam from Christianity last Thursday at a Terengganu talk by Dr Zakir, was the first person to do so at the Mumbai-based televangelist’s recent tour of Malaysia.
Nicholas, who is also a Muslim convert, said that the Muslim community hopes for special treatment to all who newly embrace the faith.
However, he noted that “there are still challenges for Muslims to cater for new Muslims in Malaysia”, adding that more needs to be done to improve services for new converts.
He said that HCF aids new Muslim converts by providing them moral support, shelter, helping them to get financial assistance from authorities, as well as strengthening their understanding and faith.
Local Muslim missionary Abdul Naser Tun Rahman, also known as Xifu Naser, said the Terengganu government should ask Woo’s parents first before announcing the “adoption”.
“I think first of all, adopt her or not, they should ask parents first. Do not make announcement without asking parents, I do not know whether they can accept.
“She has got parents [sic], to be fair to her, even though she is already 19 years old, but who brought her up, who took care of her? Being Muslim doesn’t mean we take her away from parents...The state and country will not be around if we do not respect the institution of family [sic],” the chairman of Muslim missionary group Skuad Mubaligh Selangor (Smash) told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
Abdul Naser said media interviews with Woo’s parents would allow for the reconciliation of differences and help minimise misunderstanding over her conversion.
When responding to questions on whether Woo was given special attention because of her conversion at Dr Zakir’s talk, Abdul Naser asked: “How about other converts whose family can’t accept? They convert wholeheartedly to Islam and sacrificed for years and they don’t receive such special attention. How would they feel?”
Although saying that every state may vary in their level of support to Muslims, Abdul Naser highlighted Perak’s Islamic affairs department as doing well in providing support to Muslim converts, including through the recognition of Chinese Muslims by appointing them to the top posts of a mosque management committee.
Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (Macma) president Prof Taufiq Yap Yun Hin said the adoption is part of the “brotherhood” in Islam, where Muslims are responsible for supporting new converts.
“That is the responsibility of the Muslims. We are using Muslims’ fund which is available in zakat to help new converts.
“‘Muallaf’ (Muslim converts) - they are eligible to get help from Muslims. They can get help. I don’t think it’s a big problem. He or she can (be) adopted by [a] Muslim family; it’s the responsibility of Muslims to help,” he told Malay Mail Online.
Yap said the Terengganu state government may have made its decision due to the public conversion of Woo, but believed everyone will be given the same treatment.
He stressed that the Terengganu state government’s “adoption” does not mean Woo will be separated from her parents, saying that their relationship remains despite her conversion to another faith.
Macma, which has 19 branches nationwide with 3,000 members, usually provides support by assisting new converts in applying for financial aid from the state religious councils and also helping them to be a “true Muslim, not only by name”, he said.
“The most important thing is (the) understanding of Islam, which is knowledge of fundamentals of Islam, knowledge which is important for his or her in daily life, how to pray and practise Islam,” he said.
The level of support to Muslims varies in different states in Malaysia as it depends on the funds allocated and collected from Muslims, with Selangor being one of the best, he said.
Source: Malay Mail Online | 20 April 2016 | http://bit.ly/23V42xc