Malaysia to deport Christian Finns for proselytizing

Malaysian police on Tuesday said four Finnish nationals will be deported after they were detained for distributing pamphlets about Christianity in the Muslim-majority country.

The suspects, two women and two men between the ages of 27 and 60, were arrested last week following complaints from locals in the northern resort island Langkawi.

Police found dozens of pens and hundreds of notebooks with Bible verses when they raided their hotel.

"The group has been handed over to the immigration department to be deported," Langkawi police chief Mohamad Iqbal Ibrabim told independent news outlet Free Malaysia Today.

He added that they would be barred from returning to Malaysia.

Read more: Malaysia court bans use of word 'Allah' by Christian newspaper

From proselytizing to apostasy

In Malaysia, proselytizing Muslims is outlawed. The country has formally banned its Muslim citizens from changing their religion.

Religious clerics in the country have called on authorities to do more to prevent so-called apostasy, arguing that those who refuse help and recant their faith must face death.

"If they are still stubborn, then the individual must be punished by death," Datuk Mohd Yusof Ahmad, a high-profile cleric, told local media last year. "That is the consensus of Muslim scholars."

Rising Islamic conservatism among two-thirds of Malaysia's 32 million inhabitants has triggered concerns in the country's ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

Religion is considered a sensitive issue in Malaysia, where deadly sectarian riots between ethnic Malay and Chinese communities left nearly 200 people dead in 1969. The tragic events of that year are often cited as a key reason for requiring strict measures on religion.

Read more: When your daughter suddenly becomes radicalized

Every evening, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

ls/es (AFP, AP)