27 December, 2007

Malaysia's highest court rejected a Hindu woman's plea

Quote Malaysiakini

"the Federal Court three-member panel today ruled against R Subashini on a legal technicality - that her divorce petition in the civil court was 'premature and invalid'."

Malaysia's highest court rejected a Hindu woman's plea Thursday to stop her Muslim-convert husband from changing their son's religion to Islam, in a case that raised concerns over eroding minority rights.

Subashini Rajasingam, a 29-year-old ethnic Indian Hindu, went to court after her husband, also an ethnic Indian, converted to Islam along with their 4-year-old son, without her consent.

Her bid to stop her husband from converting their 2-year-old son had already been rejected by lower courts, and the Federal Court was her last resort, said her lawyer, K. Shanmuga.

The Federal Court ruled a child can be converted with the consent of just one parent.

"Either husband or wife has the right to convert a child to Islam," said Nik Hashim Nik Abdul Rahman, the presiding judge of the three-member panel.

The ruling means Subashini could lose custody of both children. If the sons are converted, they will be under the jurisdiction of the Islamic courts — which will not give custody to a non-Muslim parent.

Subashini's plight reflects the tensions in this multiracial country where many Hindu, Christian and Buddhist minorities feel that their religions are getting second-class treatment by the Muslim majority.

Muslims are governed by Islamic courts while non-Muslims go to civil courts to settle family, marriage and other personal disputes. But non-Muslims complain that civil courts have been more than willing to cede authority to Islamic courts in cases involving conversions.

Her lawyers said she will likely file a fresh petition to the High Court to stop her husband from taking custody of their youngest son, who still lives with her. The elder son is with the husband.

A women's rights group slammed the ruling allowing Subashini's husband to convert their son.

"What is frightening is that the equal right of a parent is not upheld. It is absurd that the rights of a Muslim spouse has overtaken that of the non-Muslim," said Meera Samanther, president of the Women's Aids Organization.

By the way, Do Malaysian Muslims understand what 'Allah' means?

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