Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Malaysian civil society is rising against the continued interference of Islamic law in the lives of non Muslim citizens. On June 19 in Kuala Lumpur a night time prayer vigil will be held to draw public attention to the case of Ravathi, a woman of Indian origins who is currently being held in a detention centre after the state refused to recognise her religious status as a Hindu.
Organizers include the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) women’s rights groups Women's Action Society (AWAM) and Sisters in Islam (SIS).
Revathi was born to Indian parents who had converted to Islam before her birth. She claims she was raised by her grandmother as a Hindu. She and Suresh were married according to Hindu rites in March 2004. Revathi was advised by the Malacca Islamic Religious Department to make an application at the Malacca Syariah High Court to confirm her status as a Hindu. She did as she was told. However, the Syariah Court ordered her detained in a rehabilitation centre in Ulu Yam, Selangor under Melaka's Syariah criminal laws for 100 days. This detention was extended in Revathi's absence for a further 80 days supposedly because she had not "repented". In the meanwhile, Revathi's Muslim mother obtained a Syariah Court order granting her custody of Revathi and Suresh's 15 month old baby. That order was enforced on Suresh's Hindu family with the assistance of the police. The family is now torn apart - with the mother in detention, the child with the grandparents and the father in limbo without his family.
After the Lina Joy case – the Malay women whose conversion to Christianity was not recognised by the Federal Court, who judged it to be an issue for the “Islamic tribunal” – increasing doubts about the existence of freedom of belief and faith in the country. In fact in multi-racial Malaysia two legislations exist: Islamic and Constitutional, and they are often conflicting. For example Constitutional law grants freedom of religion, while Islamic law prohibits conversion from Islam. Organizers of the prayer vigil Revathi, seek to underline that “Federal law supremacy over Sharia needs to be reaffirmed”.