Friday, April 20, 2007

Malaysian Hindu Accuses Islamic Body Of Unlawfully Detaining Family.

That is the headline in the International Herald Tribune. It details yet another case of members of a family being forcibly separated in the name of religion. Why is all this happening in our country? What has become of that lynch pin of democracy, freedom of choice? Why has the government, elected by the citizens of all races and religions, abdicated its authority to the officials of the Islamic Department? Is this an example of the much vaunted Islam Hadhari? Please read the following report and cry for your beloved country.

A Malaysian Hindu man filed a suit in a high court on Thursday accusing Islamic authorities of illegally detaining his wife and five children after deciding she was a Muslim and therefore her marriage to a Hindu was illegal. Marimuthu Periasamy, a rubber plantation worker, asked the court in central Selangor state to order the state's Islamic Department to produce his family in court so they can be freed, his lawyer, Karpal Singh, said.

Under Malaysia's Islamic laws, anyone who wants to marry a Muslim must convert to Islam, and anyone born a Muslim must remain a Muslim for life.

Marimuthu's case is the latest in a series of conflicts involving the religious rights of minority groups in Malaysia. Marimuthu said his wife, Raimah Bibi Noordin, an ethnic Indian, was adopted by an Indian Muslim family when she was young but is a practicing Hindu. Her old identity card said she was a Hindu Indian, but she was listed as a Muslim when she applied for a new identity card earlier this year, he said.

The Islamic Department officials seized Raimah and five of their six children from their home on April 2 and sent them to a Malay Muslim village for rehabilitation, Marimuthu told The Associated Press. Their eldest son wasn't detained because he wasn't at home at the time, he said.

He said he tried to stop them but the officers threatened to charge him with adultery under Islamic law. "We've been married for 18 years. She is a Hindu, how can they say she is a Muslim?" Marimuthu asked.

Authorities probably learned about Raimah's religious status when the couple enrolled their children in school and copies of her new identity card were submitted to the Education Department, his lawyer, Karpal, said.

"We are asking the Islamic department to produce the family in court to be set free because they were forcibly taken away and their detention is illegal," Karpal said.

Muslims, who account for nearly 60 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people, are governed by Syariah laws in family and personal matters. Ethnic Chinese, Indian and other races come under civil courts.

Abdullah Mohamad Zin, minister in charge of religious affairs, told reporters Thursday cases such as Marimuthu's showed "conflicts between the civil and Islamic courts," but declined to comment on the legality of such detentions.

The opposition Democratic Action Party is seeking a parliamentary debate on the growing number of families being forced to separate because of religion, Chairman Lim Kit Siang said. "Such cases are getting out of hand. It undermines family values, interracial harmony, national goodwill and Malaysia's international image," Lim said Thursday, urging the government to intervene to ensure justice.

Activists say many of the recent disputes have ended in favor of Muslims and have strained ethnic relations in the multicultural nation, which has enjoyed racial peace for nearly four decades.

***** I will not add to what I've already mentioned here in this post as well as in my earlier article - Justice, Malaysian Style. But you are welcome to give your comments on this sorry state of affairs.

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Blogger Billy said...

Many years ago while I was a tourist guide, many foreigners especially the Americans and Europeans thought we were living on trees. A wrongful perception. But now with such news going international, for those who are not familiar with the Asian region might think we are some where near Afghanistan or worse Iran.

There goes the VMY 2007.

8:15 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous nazlihaffiz said...

instead of 'cracking down' and 'rehabilitating' the 'apostates' it would be better if the 'authorities' instill religious values since young.

11:34 AM GMT+8  

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