Monday, January 23, 2006

Where to bury Nyonya Tahir?

In Tampin, Negeri Sembilan, Nyonya Tahir passed away peacefully on Thursday aged 89. But her burial may yet present a situation less peaceful for her children.

According to her children, Nyonya Tahir left the Muslim faith some decades ago. They produced a document from the Alor Gajah Islamic Religious Office and Mahkamah Kadi, signed long before Article 121(1)(A) came into being, that stated Nyonya Tahir had lived as a Chinese and wanted to be buried as one. Furthermore, she declared she didn’t want to return to the Muslim faith.

Unlike the late M Moorthy, Nyonya Tahir had wisely made a written declaration to that effect. In her declaration, Nyonya, who was born in 1918, said that since her mother's death, she had been raised by her grandmother, who was a Malay married to a Chinese convert.

As a kid, she was raised as a Chinese and at the sweet age of 18, married Chiang Meng. They had 13 children who were all registered and lived as Chinese. Her husband didn’t embrace Islam. Being a wife of yonder era, she followed the ways of hubby and lived as a non-Muslim Chinese.

Nyonya had made the declaration in Hokkien (now, translated into Malay), which bears the signature of Chong Yong Mok, a Commissioner for Oaths in Malacca, and Nyonya's right thumb print.

Nyonya Tahir left instructions that she wanted to be buried according to Buddhist rites.

But Mustafa Abdul Rahman, Islamic Development Department director-general, said that, despite claims in the form of a witnessed declaration, her children must wait until the Syariah High Court has decided whether to accept the declaration as well as the document claimed to have been produced by Alor Gajah Islamic Religious Office and Mahkamah Kadi twenty years ago.

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