From Zenit News Agency, with thanks to Ali Dashti:
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, SEPT. 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- For months Malaysians have been talking about a case concerning the denial of religious freedom.
Shamala Sathyyaseelan, a non-Muslim mother of two, asked Malaysia’s highest court why her children were forcibly converted to Islam without her consent and knowledge.
The Supreme Court sidestepped the case by declaring it was incompetent and referred it to the Shariah Court. The woman’s lawyers objected arguing that the Shariah, or Islamic law, tribunal does not have jurisdiction over non-Muslims. In the gap between two competing legal systems Sathyyaseelan is alone, her case in limbo.
In this Southeast Asian country of 23.5 million, two legal systems coexist: one based on the country’s federal constitution and civil courts; the other framed by Shariah law and applied in principle only to Muslims.
In Sathyyaseelan’s case, with the Supreme Court washing its hands, the Shariah Court is likely to uphold the father’s claim and sanction the children’s conversion to Islam.
Sathyyaseelan’s case has been taken up by Malaysia’s Catholic bishops, according to the AsiaNews agency. In a recently released paper, the bishops stress how in mixed marriages the weaker — that is, non-Muslim — party faces most of the problems.
Although formally protected under the law, non-Muslims must accept the decisions of Islamic courts which inevitably privilege Muslim applicants.