Saturday, July 07, 2007

Updated: Can check in, cannot check out

Another sad case of religion has come to light in Malaysia. The latest heart-wrenching story is about a Muslim-born woman who has not been allowed to leave the religion despite her stated wish to do so following her marriage to a Hindu man.

She told a harrowing tale of detention in an Islamic rehabilitation centre that sounded more like a jail sentence as it included solitary confinement and forced religious 'counseling'.

"Although I served 180 days, I still cannot convert out of Islam," said 29-year-old Revathi Masoosai (NST pix), who has vowed to remain a Hindu. "I wasted my time."

Under Malaysian laws, Muslims cannot marry non-Muslims unless they convert to Islam. This has become a social norm in Malaysia although it doesn't sound entirely fair.

But is it reasonable to make it near impossible for Muslims who wish to check out of the religion? Under the laws, a Muslim will be considered a criminal should he leave the religion although freedom of religions is enshrined in the Constitution.

This is not the first time the Malaysian authorities have made it near impossible for Muslims who wish to convert to other religions. One will never forget the Lina Joy case. There are other pending cases, including that of a Chinese man who grew up as a Muslim due to a baby mix-up in a hospital nearly three decades ago. He's now trying to change his religious status but don't hold your breath.

It's therefore not an understatement to say that Malaysia enjoys limited religious freedom. Sigh.

PS: The Islamic moral guardian has also become more zealous in telling Muslims what they can or cannot wear. Sigh

Update (11 July 2007): Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has vowed
to look into politically sensitive cases of Muslims seeking to renounce Islam in favor of other religions. "We have to be ready to listen and to solve the problems," he told reporters. "This is not about something that cannot be done. For those who don't want to be Muslims anymore, what can you do?"

It remains to be seen whether the Malaysian premier can do anything to redress the problem and help ensure real freedom of religion in the country. This is because Islamic religious issues come under the jurisdiction of state governments, which generally have a different view from the federal government on the political hot potato.


Anonymous said...

Such news serves to give islam a bad news. Already Muslims around the world are not helping themselves with their PR by slaughtering each other in the name of religion n very conveniently allowing others to associate violence with the religion. The shootout in Pakistan and the violent feud in Palestinian opposing groups only propagate further this bad image for Islam. What can we say if they want to force people to believe - even through jail and harsh penalties.

Anonymous said...

Sophie, can you tell me whether the Malays in Singapore, who are also Muslim facing the same scenario as Malaysia?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sophie,
I think with Pak Lah's push for moderate Islam, Malaysia's tough stance on Mulims comverting out of Islam, vis-a-vis the Constitution, put's Malaysia in a bad light.

);-( Samurai said...

Sophie, Anon 8.45am,

It is certainly made worse when the current Malaysian Government is pushing for the so-called Islam Hadhari or progressive Islam.

Such contradicting acts by the State religious authorities only certainly creates negative images of Islam.

It makes you wonder whether the Federal and State Governments are in-sync with their policies on religion.

Vittal said...

Interesting. I didn't know that Malaysian law prevented a man/woman converting from Islam to his religion of choice!