NEW - Vedic/Hindu Calendar for 2013

NEW - Vedic/Hindu Calendar for 2013
Shri Ramapir Mandir/Temple in Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Malaysia top court hears landmark religious dispute

By Dr.Radhe Shyam Kumar
Wednesday,May 19,2010
Malaysia's highest court began proceedings on Monday on a landmark inter-religious child custody dispute, outcome of which could further raise political tension in this mainly Muslim country.

A Hindu woman, Shamala Sathiyaseelan, won temporary custody of her two children in 2004 following her husband's conversion to Islam. She is seeking full custody and a declaration that it is illegal under Malaysia's constitution for a parent to convert a minor to Islam without the other's consent.

Malaysia's dual-track legal system where Muslims fall under Islamic family laws while non-Muslims come under civil laws has led to overlaps and unresolved religious disputes that have fuelled minority unhappiness and raised political tensions.

"This is a fundamental constitutional question being brought up for the first time, and a lot of other cases will abide by the ruling on this case," Shamala's lawyer, Cyrus Das, told reporters.


Unhappiness with the government over religious and ethnic issues by minorities who make up 40 percent of the country's 28 million population was among the factors that led to the ruling coalition's historic poll losses in 2008.

Since taking office in April last year, Najib has reached out to minorities by introducing a "1Malaysia" policy to foster greater inclusiveness and set up an inter-religious committee to foster dialogue.

The cabinet in April last year issued a directive banning the unilateral religious conversion of minors by one parent but its implementation is still uncertain.

But the by-election comes at a time when major church there has a pending court case against the government over its right to use the word "Allah."

"There is a huge crack in the nation due to the overlaps (in jurisdiction between Islamic and civil courts) and the rolling back of rights," said Ivy Josiah, executive director of rights group Women's Aid Organisation (WAO).

"If unresolved, people will have no choice but to go to the ballot box," said Josiah, whose WAO is one of five rights groups granted observer status by the federal court on the Shamala case.

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