Malaysian Indian challenges dead half-brother’s conversion to Islam

June 26th, 2008 - 1:14 pm ICT by IANS  


Kuala Lumpur, June 26 (IANS) A Malaysian Indian has challenged the conversion to Islam of his half-brother, who allegedly committed suicide earlier this week, claiming his body from hospital authorities for funeral as per Hindu rites. S. Selvam, 48, who earlier sold fried noodles, but is now unemployed, filed a summon at a high court registry in George Town Wednesday naming the state Islamic Religious Affairs Department, the Perak Islamic Religious Department and the Parit Buntar Hospital director as defendants.

He is seeking a declaration that his brother B. Elangesvaran, 34, was a Hindu when alive, The Star newspaper said Thursday. He allegedly hanged himself to death last Sunday.

Selvam has sought an injunction to restrain the defendants, their workers or agents, from claiming Elangesvaran’s body and “from interfering with the release of the deceased’s body to him to perform the last funeral rites according to the Hindu custom”.

In his statement of claim, Selvam claimed that after the post mortem, a hospital staff informed the family that the body could not be released to them as the deceased had converted to Islam at the Penang state’s Religious Affairs Department.

Selvam said he had contacted authorities for confirmation and proof of his brother’s conversion but the department had failed to provide him with any official documents with the deceased’s signature or thumbprint as proof of his conversion.

“I was only served with a police report alleging that my brother had embraced Islam at the Penang Islamic Religious Department in Lebuh Pantai and a letter, with some scribbling allegedly done by Elangesvaran, that he had converted.

“The letter, however, did not contain my brother’s signature or thumbprint or the signatures of any witnesses to indicate that he had embraced Islam as required under the tenets of Islam,” he said.

Selvam claimed that since the religious authorities could not provide him with the necessary documents to show that Elangesvaran had legally and rightfully embraced Islam, the defendants had no right to claim his brother’s body, which is currently being kept at the hospital’s mortuary.

He is also seeking damages, costs and other relief deemed fit by the court, the newspaper said.

Religious conversion is a sensitive issue in multi-ethnic Malaysia that has over 60 percent indigenous Muslim Malays, about 33 percent Chinese and eight percent Indians. The ethnic minorities profess several faiths including Islam, Hinduism and various denominations of Buddhism.

A court recently allowed an ethnic Chinese woman, who converted to Islam to marry a Muslim, to revert to Buddhism after she said she had never practised Islam during the short period of her marriage.

Burial last year of a former army soldier as per Muslim rites became an issue with a Hindu family who disputed his conversion. But the court ruled that he had indeed converted.

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