Malaysia: Islam 'rehabilitates' members of other faiths

Woman seeing herself as Hindu jailed; her marriage "illegal" because husband didn't convert, and her daughter taken away from her.

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April 18, 2007 15:22
1 minute read.
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A Malaysian Islamic court has extended the detention of a Muslim-born woman living as a Hindu in defiance of the law after she refused to be rehabilitated, an opposition leader said Wednesday. Revathi Masoosai, an ethnic Indian, was detained by the Islamic Religious Department in southern Malacca state in January and sent for religious counseling in a rehabilitation center after they discovered she had been born to a Muslim family. Revathi, 29, was born to Indian Muslim parents who gave her a Muslim name, Siti Fatimah. But she claimed she was raised as a Hindu by her grandmother and changed her name in 2001, opposition Democratic Action Party officials have said. Malaysian Islamic law regards people born to Muslims as being Muslims themselves. Islamic officials seized her 15-month-old daughter from her Hindu husband, Suresh Veerappan, last month and handed the child to Revathi's Muslim mother. Revathi married Suresh in 2004 according to Hindu rites but the marriage has not been legally registered because Suresh would have had to convert to Islam first. Revathi's official identification documents state she is Muslim because Malaysians who are born as Muslims cannot legally change their religion. Parliamentary opposition chief Lim Kit Siang, who chairs the DAP, said the Malacca Shariah Court has extended Revathi's initial detention term of 100 days, which expired Wednesday, for an additional 80 days. Her husband was informed by court officials that "she did not cooperate during the 100-day stay," Lim told The Associated Press. Revathi was not brought to court and Veerappan's demand for a copy of the court order on the extension was rejected, he said. Islamic Department officials in Malacca could not immediately be reached for comment. "It is sad and tragic that this heart-rending tale of the father, mother and baby girl being forcibly separated into three different locations by law and religion had not been resolved today," Lim said. "When law and religion comes together to break the family, it gives a bad name to our country. Something is very wrong and it must be put right." Lim urged the government to intervene and ensure justice for Revathi's family, warning that the case could promote ill-will among Malaysia's different races.

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