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Religious Freedom: We Deserve the Government We Vote

P. Dev Anand Pillai, Klang

Malaysia Kini (12/29/05)

It is good to note that the High Court has asked very pertinent questions to the authorities as to where do the non-Muslims go for remedies when they are faced with injustices that according to our constitution can only be solved in a forum in the Syariah Court.

Problems of the dead being unable to rest in peace because of the fact that two or more parties are claiming rights to the body is a very common problem in Malaysia. We claim to be multi-racial and multi-religious but are the authorities taking heed of these very unhealthy developments that could hinder racial unity in the country?

Article 121(1)(1A) of the federal constitution states that matters which are in the purview of the Syariah Courts shall be heard before that forum and not before the civil courts as the civil courts have no jurisdiction when it comes to matters of religion.

One might ask what are the civil courts in Malaysia for then? Our courts need to come out of the shackles of fear that the executive has put upon them if they decide on what the law ought to be. The people of Malaysia have only the courts to go to seek justice, and if the people have entrusted the courts, can it be put back to them that this very courts are not the right forum of convenience?

What remedy can a non-Muslim get in a Syariah Court, when at the outset it refuses to let anyone not professing the religion of Islam to reason with it for justice and a remedy to be sought for the party aggrieved? How can a Syariah Court do justice for a non-Muslim widow if it has already granted an ex-parte order for the body to be released to Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council for burial?

These are issues which only a civil court of competent jurisdiction can decide upon without fear or favour and for the benefit of all Malaysians.

The moment a conversion takes place without the family knowing about it, they stand to loose their rights on the converted family member’s share of the family property or any of his own. They are left out in the cold with nothing to fend for because the deceased has converted without their knowledge.

The authorities, instead of taking advantage of such a situation, should counsel such individuals and take the effort to put their non-Muslims families to notice. People are beginning to use religion to get favours, be it monetary or welfare, but with no seriousness of knowing what they have gotten themselves into.

L/Cpl M Moorthy was already in a state of ill health since 1998 and he had slipped into a coma by the Dec 1, 2005. Is there a possibility that he could have converted into Islam knowing fully well of what he was doing and getting himself into? So again by default the Syariah Courts have won and more animosity will breed amongst the non-Muslims towards our Muslim friends.

When a conversion has taken place, that is after the issuance of the ‘Kad Islam’ by the religious authority, it is a one-way ticket for most of the converts. The change of their national registration identity cards will follow suit but some will soon find that they have made a mistake which becomes very difficult to reverse in a judicial system like ours.

We have to tell the non-Muslims youths of this possible pitfalls which could happen to them if they are not aware and blindly follow their peers without asking questions and reasoning. The situation will not get any better if we have civil courts that are merely toothless, lame and frightened tigers that are there just as a symbol of justice and not an institution that can defend each and every Malaysian.

It is sad to note that racial unity and integration is going in this direction. The ultimate destination of this direction is very questionable. Can we blame the civil courts? It is we the Malaysians that we have to blame, we deserve the government that we vote, because by this vote, legislation are made and by this legislation, injustices such as these occur.