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Friday, December 8, 2023

Malaysia: Hindu Couple’s daughter declared Muslim, forced to join Islamic Studies Class

A Hindu father has filed a complaint with the Education Department that his daughter is being forced to take Islamic Studies in school even though the child’s mother is born a Hindu and is seeking an appeal to renounce Islam.

Online portal Malaysiakini reported that the father identified as 50-year-old cab driver P. Manivanan had requested the Education Ministry’s intervention to resolve the dispute faced by his nine year old child M. Luganeshvari.

Apparently, the man’s wife was born a Hindu but her parents had converted into Islam together with her when she was three years old and given the name Siti Fatimah Paramaswari.

However, when Paramaswari was 18, she married Manivanan and had applied to the Shah Alam Syariah Court to have her Muslim status annulled.

He and his wife were married according to Hindu rites and they also hold a valid marriage certificate issued by a commissioner of oaths.

“The issue now is that the National Registration Department (NRD) has declared my daughter as a Muslim,” Manivanan reportedly said.

“When she was born, we told the NRD officer on duty that my wife has applied to revert to being a Hindu, and the said officer registered the child (then) as a Hindu. However, when the birth certificate came out, my daughter’s religion was stated as Islam.

“Worse still, my name was not included in the certificate at all. In the column where the father’s name is supposed to be, it is stated ‘information not obtained’.”

Manivanan complained that Tamil schools refused to accept Luganeshvari due to the dispute over her birth certificate and he was forced to register his daughter into a national school where she was forced to take Islamic studies.

He explained that Luganeshvari had never practiced Islam and his wife had already renounced the religion but they hold Islam and Muslims with respect.

The NRD in Putrajaya on the other hand said his daughter was registered as a Muslim due to Paramaswari’s religion.

“What right does NRD have to decide on my behalf? And why was my name excluded? I challenge the NRD to explain the exclusion of my name, when I have a valid marriage certificate. They should have waited until my wife’s case is resolved, and not make hasty decisions,” he told Malaysia Kini.

Manivanan had lodged a police report against the NRD for allegedly falsifying the details in Luganeshvari’s birth certificate.

The online portal also reported that Education Minister Maszlee Malik is looking into the matter but NRD had not commented on the issue.

(The above report appeared on 4 Feb 2019 in & is being reproduced in full)

HinduPost Note

The Constitution of Malaysia provides that Islam is the religion of the country and states that “every person has the right to profess and to practice his or her religion and (subject to applicable laws restricting the propagation of other religions to Muslims) to propagate it.”

As of the 2010 Population and Housing Census, 61.3% of the population of Malaysia is Muslim; 19.8% Buddhist; 9.2% Christian; 6.3% Hindu; and 1.3% follow traditional Chinese religions.

The nation, which considers itself a ‘moderate and modern’ Muslim country, maintains two parallel justice systems in the country. One is the secular justice system based upon laws gazetted by Parliament. The other is sharia (syariah, Islamic law). Ostensibly Syariah Courts only have jurisdiction over persons who declare themselves to be Muslims. Consequently, this results in non-Muslims not having legal standing in Syariah Courts. In this case, Paramaswari’s request to annul her Muslim status is pending in just such a Sharia court.

Malaysia has powerful Islamic Affairs Departments in its 13 states and in the capital district around Kuala Lumpur. The departments, a kind of parallel bureaucracy to the state apparatus that were strengthened during the first tenure from 1981-2003 of current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, run the Shariah courts.

Muslims who wish to convert from Islam face severe obstacles in Malaysia. The legal process of conversion is also unclear; in practice it is very difficult for Muslims to change their religion legally. Muslims who wants to convert to another religion must get explicit permission from a syariah court to declare themselves ‘apostates’, which is rarely granted. In some states conversion out of Islam is a crime punishable by a fine or imprisonment, or even by caning. The law forbids proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims, but allows and supports Muslims proselytizing others.

In one high-profile case where a woman Lina Joy tried to officially convert from Islam to Christianity, the civil courts said Malays could not renounce Islam because the Constitution defined Malays to be Muslims  – ethnic Malays or Bumiputeras (a Sanskrit-origin term meaning ‘sons of the soil’) enjoy  preferential treatment in everything from education to investing in Malaysia, hence the official Malay tag is much sought after (contrast this with Bharat, where minorities enjoy far more rights in education, managing religious affairs & civil law compared to the ‘majority’ Hindus).  Lina Joy lost the case and was denied identification as a Christian on her identification card.

In another famous case from 2006 involving a Hindu couple, the husband T. Saravanan converted to Islam and sought to dissolve his marriage with his Hindu wife R. Subashini via the Syariah Court. He also converted their 4-year-old son to Islam. Subashini appealed to multiple courts, but a federal court finally rejected her appeal.

(Featured Image for representational purpose only. Source)

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