According to a recent report from Indonesia, tribes in the country are slowly converting to Islam so that they would be able to get the required attention from the government. Few people of the Orang Rimba tribe featured in the report decided to convert to Islam in Jaunary this year by giving up their animist culture and lifestyle, which had already been destroyed thanks to rampant expansion of Palm oil plantations and coal mining in their native forests.
They were aided in the conversion process by an Islamic NGO, which was further assisted by the Social Welfare ministry of the Muslim majority country. One tribesman claimed that after converting, they would be able to get national identity cards which would mean they would be eligible for public services like education and health care – something that was elusive for them all thee years.
One of the new converts named Muhammad Yusuf claimed that his conversion from animism to Islam has meant that the government which earlier didn’t care about them have now started to pay attention.
A similar incident had also come to light from Malaysia, another Muslim majority country considered to be moderate one along with Indonesia. Here too the indigenous groups have alleged that the government had offered them infrastructure, provided they abandon their animistic ways and embrace Islam.
The government of Malaysia had reportedly built modern settlements equipped with electronic gadgets in their region. But according to a Indigenous rights campaigner, the facilities came with strings attached as the government officials had set a condition that in order to avail them , one has to be a Muslim. The government though denied the allegations.
Such religious conditions for facilities have also been imposed in Pakistan. According to a report, hospitals in Sindh lacked the funds that could help out the indigenous non-Muslims of the country. The report claimed that a Scheduled Caste Hindu named Sahib Bheel was running from pillar to post in order to seek monetary help for his son admitted in the hospital. He received no response from the government and had to sit on a dharna and even attempted self-immolation.
According to him, the officer of the Zakat funds (the amount earmarked in Islam for charity) had refused him a single penny as the funds were apparently in their entirety only for Muslims. Sahib isn’t the only victim of this discrimination, there are apparently a thousand others who are refused such help in Sindh.
This Zakat fund is reportedly also been used as an incentive for conversion in the United Arab Emirates. The report claimed that a hundred people who had embraced Islam in the UAE were the beneficiary of the aid which amounted to Dh1 million. The majority of the converts were Indians or Filipino.