Well, we are certainly 'Towering Malaysians' of some sorts. The Moorthy case made it into al Jazeera as well as other international newspapers.
According to al Jazeera, the widow of the late M Moorthy, Kaliammal Sinnasamy, said her husband didn’t mention one single word of his purported conversion to her or relatives. She said that Moorthy remained a Hindu because he ate pork, drank liquor and took part in Hindu festivals. These are activities forbidden by Islam.
The legal outcome of Moorthy's case has worried the hell out of non-Muslims Malaysian because even the civil court has been reluctant to touch on anything that the Syariah court has made a ruling, regardless of whether the latter had the jurisdiction to do so. The Moorthy’s case has not been the first time the Malaysian civil courts defer automatically to its Islamic counterpart.
Anything with a tinge of Islamic involvement in Malaysia is ultra sensitive regardless of whether the issue infringes on the supremacy of constitutional rights. Those in positions to legally pontificate or politically comment would, as the Malaysians say, ‘act don’t-know’ (remain silent by pretending to be oblivious to what's going on). Gone are the days of people like Justice Raja Azlan Shah who dared to speak out without fear or favour.
Such an affair of great public interest that has already seriously infringed on the constitutional rights of Malaysia's citizens hasn’t even yet evoked a single comment from the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister or the Attorney General. The only minister with the gonads to say something sensible and fair appears to be Nazri Aziz, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
Then, Nazri Aziz has always been vocal, either lambasting the Police for condoning one of its cops to intimidate a whistle blower through a libel suit, or in a less praiseworthy role in demanding women BN senators passed the Islamic family Law bill which will be very much against women’s interests. I guess one has to take Nazri Aziz with all his good and his bad roles.
Nazri agrees with the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism that in such cases where a man’s religion has yet to be determined, it ought to be the civil courts, and not the Syariah courts, who should preside over the ruling. He said:
"Put it this way: When a person’s faith is in question, the civil court should be allowed to hear it. Let evidence from both sides be produced. But if a person is a confirmed Muslim without dispute, then it goes to the Syariah Court; there is nothing else to be done."
"The question in Moorthy’s case was whether he was indeed a Muslim in the first place. If we let the Muslim court decide this, justice might not be served because it would decide in favour of Islam."
Exactly what KTemoc said yesterday in my posting Climber left widow an emotional Everest to surmount.
R. Thiagaraja, the secretary-general of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism, said:
"If what happened to Moorthy's family happens to other Hindus, or to Christian and Buddhist families, then national unity will suffer because the non-Muslims will feel they have no protection. It's wrong for the Shariah court to assume jurisdiction in cases that affect non-Muslims."
What many may not realize is that Moorthy’s wife could not represent her case in a Syariah court because she is not a Muslim, and with the Civil court refusing to hear her evidence, she has been seemingly abandoned by Malaysia’s judiciary system. It's a damning shame on Malaysia's legal system!
The Syariah court naturally relied only on the presentation of Moorthy’s former military colleagues, which with that approach, inevitably made Moorthy a Muslim. Moorthy’s relatives wanted to prove how he had before falling into a coma, participated in Hindu religious ceremonies and drunk alcohol. But most evidential of all, Moorthy had even been interviewed by local television two months ago about his preparations for the Hindu festival of Deepavali (Diwali). How more Hindu did he need to be?
Moorthy's remains had been fought over with such vigour by the Islamic council partly because he had been a high profile personality in Malaysia, virtually a hero in a country which look for heros and even creates them. He was a member of the highly publicized Malaysian expedition to Mount Everest in 1997.
The struggle over the remains of a Malaysian hero reminds KTemoc of another case where there was a totally unfounded rumour that Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, had converted to Islam because he heard the azaan, or Muslim call to prayer on the moon. Armstrong came out to reject that rumour.
This article written by Zafar Bangash, the Director of the Canadian based Institute for Contemporary Islamic Thoughts, talks about Muslim obsession with celebrity Islam.