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PERKIM. An acronym for Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam SeMalaysia, or All Malaysia Muslim Welfare Association, PERKIM was founded in 1960 by the first prime minister of the newly independent nation, Tunku Abdul Rahman, as a religious and social welfare organization. Much of the original funding was provided by the Tunku’s contacts with elites in the Muslim world, notably Saudi royalty, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and a $I2-million gift from Libya.

PERKIM’s principal goal is the promotion of Islam as the national religion, with particular emphasis on the conversion of the non-Malay population, although without pressure or coercion. PERKIM’s character as a noncommunal, or ethnic-bridging, religious organization is unique in multiethnic Malaysia; it was symbolically affirmed in the beginning by the ethnic identities of its cofounders, Haji Ibrahim Ma, Tan Sri O. K. Ubaidullah, and Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard, who are Chinese, Indian, and European Muslims, respectively.

Relatively inactive before 1970, PERKIM sprang to public attention during the 1970s following the ethnic and political conflicts of the late 1 960s, which resulted in growing ethnic and religious polarization between the Muslim Malays and other groups. The New Economic Policy, enshrining strong affirmative action in favor of Malays, initiated two decades of Malay economic and constitutional assertiveness and tied economic and educational opportunity to Malay ethnic status, of which Islam is an essential cultural attribute. This was also the era of the Islamic resurgence in Malaysia, locally known as dakwah (Ar., da’wah), whose activities were directed exclusively toward the Malay community.

In this social climate, PERKIM’s distinctiveness lay in its continued attempts to create a multiethnic Islamic community and to reduce the perceived threat of a resurgent Islam among non-Malays. To these ends, PERKIM provides a wide range of support and services, including hostel accommodation and religious instruction for new converts and advice on personal problems arising from their conversion. Among its many educational services are preparation for government examinations, vocational courses, a variety of training schemes, and its own nondenominational kindergartens. PERKIM also sponsors clinics and drug rehabilitation schemes, which are important sources of new converts.

The total number of converts to Islam via PERKIM is hard to estimate precisely, partly because of an enthusiastic tendency toward overestimation during the early 1970s, and partly because of a subsequent high rate of recidivism; however, the total number of converts has probably never exceeded 120,000 During the early 1970s, the largest single constituency of converts to Islam via PERKIM consisted of working-class urban Chinese, who sought through Islam an assimilatory route to Malay ethnic and legal status, together with jobs and other privileges. For several years Tunku Abdul Rahman defended the Chinese converts’ rights of access to occupational and other Malay quotas, both in parliament and in the Malay community at large, but he was ultimately unsuccessful. At this point, many Chinese Muslims were designated only as Saudara Bahru (“new brothers in the faith”), but not as Malays, and were relegated to a separate Chinese Muslims’ Association. As a result, the rate of Chinese conversions has declined significantly to a level of less than one hundred annually, and many earlier converts have disappeared from view. More recent converts have tended to be young, male, and single, and to come from assorted Chinese, Indian, Eurasian, and European backgrounds; many of them are contemplating marriage with a Muslim, although a few still anticipate advantages in doing business with Malays. Finally, in 1979, PERKIM opened a settlement Pusan Pelarian Indochina (Indochina Refugee Center) in coastal Kelantan state specifically for Muslim (Cham) refugees from Cambodia.

The founding chapter and headquarters of PERKIM is the Balai Islam in the capital of Kuala Lumpur, with a further fifty or so branches throughout Malaysia, several of them supported by commercial and shopping complexes. In the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, PERKIM’s branches (USIA and BINA, respectively) have been particularly active among the nonMalay indigenous population, which accounts for another substantial category of recent converts.

PERKIM’s publications include instructional books on Islam and social problems, as well as regular newsletters in three languages-Suara PERKIM (Malay), Nur Islam (Chinese), and the Islamic Herald (English).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Mutalib, Hussin. Islam and Ethnicity in Malay Politics. Singapore, 1990.

JUDITH NAGATA

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/perkim/
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  • writerPosted On: June 25, 2017
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