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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

August-04-10

Malaysian Woman Not Allowed to Convert to Hinduism

A Malasian woman's attempt to nullify her childhood Muslim conversion was dismissed by the secular High Court, who said they did not have the jurisdiction to nullify it. Malaysia has two different justice systems, Shariah (Islamic law), for the 60% Muslim population, and a secular court for non-Muslims, according to the Associated Press. The court told the woman, Siti Hasnah Bangarama, to take her case to the religious court, which tends to rule in favor of Islam in interfaith disputes. Bangarama and her lawyer, Gooi Hsiao Leung, are now preparing to appeal.

Yaacob Mohammed of the secular high court ruled that the conversion is valid because it is "the universal right of a parent, irrespective of what the religion is" to bring up a child in the faith in which they believe, reports
Sify News. However, Bangarama said that she was converted to Islam by welfare officials in 1989 after she and her siblings were put into an orphanage. Under Penang Islamic law, children cannot be converted without the consent of their parents. In addition, while the court says there is compelling evidence that she was converted in 1983, her conversion papers say 1989.

Because Muslims are not legally able to marry non-Muslims in Malaysia, Bangarama's 2001 marriage to her husband, who is Hindu, cannot be officially recognized. She also can't register her husband as the father of their two children on their birth certificates. According to
Agence France-Presse, her Malaysian identity card, which has her Muslim name (Siti Hasnah Bangarama Abdullah) and says that she is Muslim, further complicates the case.

"Why must I be forced to accept Islam?" Banggarma said. "I was born an Indian, a Hindu and I remain so until I die. They have no rights over me."

Media Resources: Associated Press 8/4/10; Sify News 8-4-10; Agence France-Presse 8/4/10


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