KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad today weighed in on the apostasy controversy involving PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, saying it is wrong for her to suggest that Islam permits Muslims to denounce their religion in the name of religious freedom.
Although the Lembah Pantai MP denied supporting apostasy, a crime in Malaysia, Mahathir suggested that the daughter of his arch-enemy, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, was too influenced by Western liberalism.
“We are Muslims, we are not allowed to change our religion.
“We shouldn’t be to carried away by Western thoughts or ideas of openness… if not we would have more films that insult Islam-like the recent one-made,” he told reporters at an event here.
The PKR leader drew flak for her remarks on religious freedom over the weekend with religious conservatives especially those backing the ruling coalition saying it was akin to promoting apostasy.
The controversy also prompted the Sultan of Selangor to warn Nurul against promoting “religious pluralism”.
She denied the allegation and yesterday said she would take legal action against Umno-owned dailies Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian for allegedly twisting her statement.
The alleged remark was made at a public forum on “Islamic State: Which version, Whose Responsibility?” in Subang Jaya last Saturday.
But today former Perlis mufti Dr Asri Zainol Abidin defended the PKR leader. He pointed out that Nurul had only said that there is no compulsion in the pactice of Islam.
“After hearing her explanation, I understand what she meant. The no compulsion is from the aspect of practice in the religion of Islam.
“If truly there is compulsion, this country’s government would certainly take action against a Muslim individual, for example a Muslim woman who does not wear the tudung (headscarf),” he told Malay daily Sinar Harian.
Asri, still considered an influential Islamic scholar, was also a former private tutor on Islamic teachings to Mahathir and his family when he was still the prime minister.
Race and religious issues are inseparable in Malaysia. Malays, who make up 60% of the population, are constitutionally defined to also be Muslims.
The Federal Constitution states that Islam is the religion of the federation but also provides for other religions to be practised freely.