When Americans say we need to be on guard against sharia (Islamic law), we're called "racists," "bigots," and "Islamophobes." Meanwhile, there isn't a sharia court in the world that doesn't produce massive suffering and discrimination.
Malaysia is typically put forward as a perfect example of a "moderate" Muslim country. But the moderate aspects of Malaysia come from the influence of past British rule, and are rapidly being undermined by sharia courts.
IPOH, Malaysia–It was the last round of a recurring argument: M. Indira Gandhi's husband wanted her to convert to Islam. A committed Hindu, she refused.
|M. Indira Gandhi|
He threatened divorce. Both started shouting. Neighbors came looking. Suddenly, he snatched their 11-month-old daughter from the arms of an older child, tucked her under one arm and sped off on his motorbike.
That was more than five years ago. Gandhi hasn't seen her child since, even though a Malaysian civil court awarded her custody.
Her husband — who converted to Islam shortly before taking his daughter away — won custody in an Islamic court. Because Gandhi is not a Muslim, she was not even called to appear. Police have been unwilling to enforce the civil court's decision.
"I am pining to see my daughter. No mother should ever have to endure this pain," said Gandhi, a kindergarten teacher, in her small rented home in Ipoh city in Perak state, about 124 miles north of Kuala Lumpur, the capital. "Give us a chance. We are all Malaysians. We should have equal rights."
Gandhi's case and others highlight perils of Malaysia's divided legal system, where majority Muslims use Shariah courts for religious and family issues such as conversion, divorce and death. The other 40 percent of the country — mainly Christians, Buddhists and Hindus — use a secular legal system inherited from the Southeast Asian country's British colonial rulers.
Critics accuse the ethnic Malay Muslim-dominated government of doing too little to resolve problems when those legal systems collide. The government has become increasingly reliant on support from Islamist and right-wing pressure groups as other constituencies flock to the opposition.
M. Kulasegaran, an opposition lawmaker who is also Gandhi's lawyer, said there are many similar cases, including several he plans to file once Gandhi's case is resolved. Some earlier cases have turned out even worse for non-Muslims than Gandhi's case has so far: In 2007, the top civil court ruled that a Muslim spouse had the right to convert his children without the mother's consent.
Some lawyers and legal experts say spouses in especially bitter custody battles sometimes convert to Islam to gain an upper hand. A Muslim with a non-Muslim spouse who seeks custody from the Shariah court is almost certain to win because the spouse has no standing.
The government has long pledged to tackle legal ambiguities related to religious conversions. But a Cabinet decision in 2009 to allow minors to be converted only with both parents' consent has yet to be made legally binding.
|A photo of M. Indira Gandhi's daughter|
In southern Negeri Sembilan state, Deepa Subramaniam's Hindu husband quietly embraced Islam in 2012 and formally converted both their children without her consent. He was then granted custody of the children by a Shariah court. Deepa turned to the civil court, which annulled her marriage on grounds of domestic violence and granted her custody of the children. Two days later, her ex-husband abducted their 5-year-old son.
National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar has refused to act on court orders to return either Deepa's son or Gandhi's daughter to their mothers. He has been cited for contempt but is waiting for a higher civil court to weigh in.
He was quoted as saying by local media that police were "sandwiched" between legal systems and proposed that children caught in custody tussles be placed in welfare homes. Khalid did not return text messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.
The abduction of Gandhi's daughter, Prasana Diksa, came days before her first birthday. Her mother had bought her a Minnie Mouse blouse and jeans, and had planned to take her to the temple for ear piercing, a traditional Hindu practice when a child turns 1.
Gandhi repeatedly called her husband and begged him to return Diksa, who was still on breast milk, in the hours and days after she was taken. Her husband, an odd-job worker now called Muhammad Riduan Abdullah, initially told her again to convert to Islam, then stopped replying to any of her requests.
Gandhi found out that he had officially converted to Islam when she went to a police station to report the abduction. There she learned that he had also changed the birth certificates of the couples' other two children to state they were Muslims. Fearing that Islamic authorities may seize them as well, Gandhi went into hiding. (Continue Reading.)
We are "moderate" and if you come over you do see people of different religious background and races getting along perfectly fine. However, while Malaysians do feel some sense of pride in this, I suppose I can say the same for countless other countries around the world too. There are undercurrents to Malaysia's "moderation".
1. The Malay race (60% of the population) has next to no right to choose their own religion. They are born Muslim, and are expected to remain Muslim till they die. I don't think the death penalty has been imposed on the very few who dared take the apostasy approach, to be fair, but a 99.9% of Malay Muslims will not apostate. There's just too much to lose. And it takes a great deal of trouble to strike off "Islam" as your stated religion in your ID.
2. So bearing that in mind, anyone who marries a Muslim would then for sure be a convert to Islam instead of the other way round. This is the double standard. You cannot use marriage to pull anyone out of Islam, only to be pulled into Islam.
3. The non Muslims in this country generally have no issue with Islam being the major/official religion of the country and so on... as long as we keep the peace. Why antagonise 60% of the country's population and make enemies of them right? After all, they largely "tolerate" the presence of other religions in the country too. Well, certain things are flaring up in recent times, as has also been covered by Answering Muslims, such as the using of "Allah" as God in Malay Bibles that were confiscated by some over zealous Muslim authorities, emphasising that Allah should only be used by Muslims in Islam.
4. I do agree that Allah should only be used by Muslims. So yes David, Christians should get to know their own religion better. Then maybe they'll know the origin of the word Allah and stop using it. Do a bit of apologetics. And stop converting to Islam just because they wanna marry a Muslim.
So the whole point is, Malaysia is moderate because the people can tolerate the one-way traffic of Islam here. You're Muslim or if you convert to Islam, you can't leave, like that famous Eagles song. And it is moderate because everyone here subscribes to the bed time story version of Islam, not the real IS Islam. But don't wonder why so much terrorism is committed in the name of Islam and start studying the Quran and Hadith and expose its real face. Then we might not be so moderate anymore.
Yet another reason why I'm glad Singapore decided to separate from Malaysia. At least in a secular state, every religion has an equal chance.
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