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Malaysia – Buddhist Family challenges Shariah Court’s Islamic Conversion Ruling



29/ 01/ 2008

Mosque_Malaysia.jpgKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (Associated Press) – An ethnic Chinese Buddhist family was appealing to a Malaysian high court Tuesday, seeking to overturn an Islamic court ruling that found their late father had converted from Buddhism to Islam, prompting his burial as a Muslim.

The family of Gan Eng Gor said a Shariah court was wrong in ruling he had become a Muslim shortly before his death.

“We want a declaration that he is not a Muslim. Our main intention is to seek justice, not just for our family but for the rest of the non-Muslim community,” son Gan Hock Ming told The Associated Press on Monday.

The case was expected to be heard Tuesday at the High Court in southern Seremban state, Hock Ming said.

It is the latest in an increasing number of interfaith conflicts that have raised tensions in multiracial Malaysia.

On Monday, opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang urged the government to end “body snatchings” by Islamic authorities, warning they were aggravating racial polarization and hurting Malaysia’s multiracial harmony.

About 60 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims. A quarter are ethnic Chinese, who are mostly Taoist, Buddhists and Christians, and 8 percent are ethnic Indians, many of whom are Hindus.

Last week, an Islamic Shariah court ruled that Eng Gor, 74, also identified as Amir Gan Abdullah, was a Muslim and should be buried under Islamic rites.

The man’s body was seized by Islamic authorities shortly after his death on Jan. 20 after a complaint by his eldest son, Abdul Rahman Gan, a Muslim convert. He claimed his father had converted to Islam last July. Other relatives disputed this.

Hock Ming said Islamic authorities claimed his bedridden father made an oral declaration in Arabic to accept Islam, but the family has medical confirmation that his father was unable to speak after a stroke in 2006. He said the alleged conversion papers were also flawed because they weren’t signed and certified.

“We hope the prime minister and the higher ups in the Islamic authorities review this case and ensure that the truth is unraveled,” Hock Ming said, calling for all conversions to Islam to be “fair and transparent.”

Authorities from the Islamic religious department in Seremban could not be reached for comment. No comment was available from the office of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Malaysia has a dual court system for civil matters with secular courts for non-Muslims and Shariah courts for Muslims. In interfaith disputes involving Muslims, the Shariah court usually gets the last word, making a favorable decision for non-Muslims less likely.

Source : International Herald Tribune

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