Muslim leaders in Malaysia are lobbying for an apostasy law following allegations of conversion of Muslims to Christianity.
They say that some churches have embarked on a concerted effort to proselytize Muslims who are poor through Christian charity organizations. Islamic leaders say that criminalizing proselytization would therefore frighten non-Muslims and also caution Muslims from trying to convert out of Islam.
The issue came to light late last year when Islamic authorities stormed into a church following a tip-off that it was subtly converting poverty-stricken Muslims.
Prime minister Najib Tun Razak has not however gone on an offensive against churches and instead appealed to Muslims and Christians to remain calm. Najib established diplomatic ties with the Vatican last year to improve his standing in the Christian world.
Opposition politicians, meanwhile, say that apostasy laws would strip off religious freedom in this multi-religious nation. But there has been rising tension between the Muslims and Christians.
The churches are denying they are attempting to converting Muslims while Muslim groups say they have evidence of conversions taking place.