Home Ministry officials have weighed in on the swirling scuttlebutt that the religion field on citizens’ ID cards was going to be scrapped, stating that, nope, the status quo will be remaining in effect in accordance with Regulation 4 of the National Registration Regulations 1990, which made it mandatory for IDs to list religious status.
Malaysian Muslims are required to list their religion on their ID, while for non-Muslim citizens, the cards — referred to as MyKad — only list the holder’s religion data on their microchip. (Non-Muslims can opt to leave the category blank, though doing so nonetheless immediately identifies them as non-Muslims, in a sort of declaration-by-omission kind of way.)
Some Malaysians have long hoped the government would discontinue the practice, as it opens the door for discrimination against both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Those hopes were given a shot in the arm earlier this week by a series of much-forwarded WhatsApp messages saying the requirement would soon be abolished.
To that, the Home Ministry had only one thing to say: PSYCH!
“This is in accordance with Provision 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, which declares Islam as the official religion and that other religions can be practiced peacefully,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The religious status displayed in the identity card of a citizen, who is a Muslim, is one of the important elements to facilitate the enforcement of Provision 11 (4) of the Constitution, as well as other Syariah laws.”
The religion field on MyKads has proven to be a divisive issue among Malaysians, with one satirical website joking that bureaucracy could interfere with one’s placement in the afterlife should a clerical error occur.
Others, meanwhile, seem to perceive a reluctance to state one’s religion as an expression of shame over their faith.
And while we don’t like to get into the nitty-gritty of telling others how to feel about these kinds of things, a few Twitter users highlighted some valid points:
Seems to us that the takeaway here is that the longer we keep sorting each other by race and religion, the harder it is to stand as a united nation. (And also, don’t believe every forwarded message you get on WhatsApp — they’re usually bulls**t. That seems like something we can all agree on.)