Kota Kinabalu: State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, Monday, proposed that a halfway house for women Muslim converts abandoned by their husbands be set up in the State.
He said a similar concept was set up in Ranau previously but that it couldn’t handle the number of cases referred to the facility as the number kept increasing.
“We tried (the halfway house) in Ranau but there were too many cases,” he said during a welcoming service for new converts at Magellan Sutera Harbour Resort organised by Hidayah Centre Sabah (HCS).
He said these women, most with many children, were usually abandoned by their Muslim husbands after several years into marriage.
But in many cases, he said these women could not return to their biological parents’ home because they are no longer accepted there while their request for help from fellow Muslims, was usually denied.
The problem prevalent among Muslim husbands, he said is that they like to marry but when they face problems, they just dump their mualaf (convert) wives after having borne them many children.
Because of the situation, many of the women converts faced a lot of difficulties. To this end, he urged organisations such as the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) to be more proactive in assisting the converts.
He said the department seemed very active in converting non-Muslims to Islam but there was no follow up.
In the 1970s, he said many people in Sabah embraced Islam and that many suraus were built. “But now, many of the surau no longer exist.
“In fact, some of the suraus have been converted into individual houses,” he said.
Pointing to their mistake, Masidi said they should have ensured the newly converts feel appreciated. “We say they are saudara baru (new converts) but we don’t treat them like one.”
He said this was one reason why many new converts returned to their former religion.
In this respect, he said it is about time Muslims in general change their approach towards how they treat Muslim converts.
He cited a SMS he received from a woman Muslim convert in Ranau recently regarding her marital problem.
He asked her whether she has approached the religious department to which she replied that the officer rebuked her for lodging the complaint.
He said the officer concerned also refused to listen to the woman’s problem.
Following the episode, the woman returned to her village and came across her former priest.
After pouring out her problem to the priest, he said the priest comforted and advised her to be patient and to discard any negative thoughts.
To this, Masidi said it is the religious department’s challenge to “save” such individuals because if nothing was done, they would return to their former religion.
Muslims in general, he said, should not let HCS and Jakim, among others, shoulder the work to assist converts on their own.
He said a study stated that most of the respondents picked being appreciated as the most important, apart from money and materialism.
On other developments, he said Islamic-related organisations should not depend too much on the Government.
“This is what weakens usÉin everything we do, we always refer to the Government,” he said.
Masidi said the mosque in his village in Keranaan was built through gotong-royong with the villagers without any help from the Government.
Also present were chairman of HCS, Muhammad Abdullah @ Nicholas Sylvester and programme director, Firdaus Said.