March 17, 2007

Legal Tsunami

Posted in Malaysia, Religion at 2:55 am by egalitaria

Tides come and go, ebb and flow.

Issues in Malaysia come in circles, round and round the mulberry bush.

We’ve had our Shamalas, Moorthys, Lina Joys and now Subshini. The Court of Appeal is ruling for the first time that a non-Muslim will have to appear before the Syariah Court, which handles Islamic family matters in Malaysia.

Amongst the three judges, Judge Gopal Sri Ram was the only one who gave a dissenting view on the matter.

Also held in this landmark ruling is that a Muslim could apply to the Islamic court to convert his underaged children without permission from the non-Muslim spouse.

Although the Constitution (which is the supreme law of the land) allows for the formation of Syariah Courts, its jurisdiction lies only over persons who profess the religion of Islam. The complication arises only when there is conversion of a spouse, which in the past would not have posed a problem. Custody of children and division of property when settling a divorce between a Muslim and non-Muslim would have been conducted quite easily under the civil courts.

In the current Subshini case, the husband is applying to bring divorce proceedings to the Syariah Court. Also contested is custody of their two children: their 3-year old son who was converted into Islam by the husband Mr. Muhammad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah; and 1-year old daughter. (By law the religion of a child is determined by both parents)

I say waves come and go, but in tidal waves a.k.a. tsunamis, each rising tide is higher than its preceding one.

Will this rising tide set precedence for more disconcerting news?

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