Several Pro-Pakatan Rakyat blogs are now circulating a purported news clipping quoting former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as saying that those wanting to leave Islam should be allowed to do so.

The article was published by Channel News Asia on July 10, 2007. It reads, “Asked about the growing number of religious disputes dominating news headlines, he (Abdullah) clarified that Muslims can leave the religion but they must first bring the matter to the state religious authorities.

“Mr Abdullah says: ‘This is not something that cannot be done. It has happened before. Those who have decided to leave the religion for some reason, they don't want to be Muslims any more, what can you do? If they want to leave the religion, what are you going to do?

“But he stressed that religious officers must offer counselling and find out what was behind the intention to renounce Islam.”

NONEThe reproduction of the article takes place amid a media storm where predominately BN politicians have criticised PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar (right) for allegedly encouraging apostasy (murtad), and accuses them of hypocrisy.

“Don’t Pak Lah’s (Abdullah’s nickname) actions also encourage Muslims to be apostates as claimed by Umno lackeys when Utusan Malaysia reported that Nurul is opening opportunities to murtad?

“Pak Lah’s statements were not published in any Umno/BN-controlled press, but only a few foreign print and online media...

“Is it that when it is voiced by Umno itself, then it is not detrimental to Islam?” read the pro-Pakatan Rakyat blog Anak Sungai Derhaka, which reproduced the news clipping yesterday.

The issue started on Nov 3 when Nurul was asked at a forum whether Malays have religious freedom?

She replied in the affirmative, with the caveat “I am, of course, tied to the prevailing views.”

When her statement as construed as encouraging apostasy, the Lembah Pantai MP denied this, saying, “I do not accept nor encourage apostasy at all.”

“I stand by the general stance that after embracing Islam, a Muslim is subjected to syariah, just as a citizen is subjected to the federal constitution.”