Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Here We Go Again : Return of the Body Snatchers

Here we go again :

The Associated Press

An Islamic court has declared a dead man a Muslim, preventing his Hindu family from cremating his body, in the latest dispute over religious conversions in Muslim-majority Malaysia, their lawyer said Monday. A Shariah court in northern Penang state ruled Friday that B. Elangesvaran, 34, who committed suicide last month, was a Muslim and his body should be released from the hospital for Muslim burial, lawyer R. Nethaji Rayer said.

In handing down the ruling, the Shariah court upheld the local Islamic Religious Affairs Department's claim that Elangesvaran had converted to Islam before his death. A civil court — the Penang High Court — dismissed the application by Elangesvaran's family Friday to have him declared a Hindu, Nethaji said. The court later Monday also refused to grant an injunction to stop the Islamic department from taking possession of Elangesvaran's body, Nethaji said.

"The body will be buried according to Muslim rites," Nethaji said. It was not immediately clear when the department would conduct the burial.

Religious conversion disputes often erupt in Malaysia, where Muslim Malays make up 60 percent of the population and mostly non-Muslim ethnic Chinese and Indians account for a third. The cases have put pressure on the government to guarantee the rights of religious minorities who increasingly complain they lose out in disputes involving Islam.

"This is not proper at all," said Nethaji. "Generally (the civil courts) always take the stand that they cannot interfere with the Shariah court."

Malaysia has a dual court system. While Shariah courts handle civil matters for Muslims, civil courts rule on the same for non-Muslims. It is unclear which court has the final word in conversion disputes.

Ghazali Saad, an official with the Penang Islamic department, said his office had proof that Elangesvaran had converted before his death. "We have the document that he converted to Islam," he said, but declined to comment further, pending the outcome of the case.

Nethaji said the purported proof was only a scribbled note allegedly written by Elangesvaran. The note was not signed, he said. He said the family was "distraught, very disappointed, completely broken down ... They are unable to go on with their lives. It's all hanging in the balance."

Personally I don't know why this country insists on mixing religion with politics. Islam (I've been told) is pure and politics is dirty. And of course politicians are a dirty lot and we are letting them set the tone on Islam in this country? That is symptomatic of what's wrong in this country.


1 comment:

Crankshaft said...

The problem is the lack of separation of religion and state.

Obviously it was an unfair playing field with the religious authorities running to the syariah court.

And so the body-snatching continues.