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article imageMuslim-Born Woman in Malaysia Wants to Live as a Hindu: Denied

By Carolyn E. Price     Jul 9, 2007 in World
A Malaysian woman who was born into the Muslim 'faith' was recently forced to spend six months in an Islamic rehabilitation center because she wants to live as a Hindu. After she was released, she says that there is no way she'll ever be a Muslim again.
Revathi Masoosai, 29 years-old, was born a Muslim to Indian parents in Malaysia. However, she was raised as a Hindu by her grandmother. Her parents gave her a Muslim name, Siti Fatimah, which she changed in 2001. However, her official papers still say she is Muslim. The official religion of this Asian nation is Islam and under Islamic law, a person who is born a Muslim is not allowed to convert to another religion.
Malaysia is considered one of the world's most relaxed Muslim countries, having enjoyed racial peace for nearly four decades. But it follows a dual justice system. Islamic, Shariah, courts administer the personal affairs of Muslims, while civil courts govern Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and other religious minorities.
The Islamic Religious Department in the southern state of Malacca detained Revathi in January of this year after officials discovered that she had married a Hindu man. For committing such a heinous crime, Revathi was sent to a rehabilitation center for "religious counseling".
Revathi says that officials at the rehabilitation center tried to make her pray as a Muslim, wear a head scarf and eat beef. As a Hindu, eating beef is a sacrilege. After she was released she told reporters: "Because of their behavior, I loathe Islam even more now. They say it's a school, but it's actually a prison."
This case is one of many conflicts between religious freedom and state policies that favor Islam in Malaysia and these fights are said to have "strained" ethnic relations in this multicultural nation.
Revathi was released from the rehabilitation center last Thursday, and on Friday she appeared in a High Court to try to have her detention declared illegal. Even though she has served her time, her lawyers say it is a matter of principle that they bring the case to court in an effort to try to set a precedent for future cases.
A lawyer who represents the Islamic department, Tuah Atan, says that officials are still hopeful that Revathi will come back to Islam: "From the facts of the case, the authorities still strongly feel she can reform.''
In 2004, in a Hindu ceremony, Revathi married Suresh Veerappan and in December 2005 they had a daughter. However, the marriage was not legally registered because according to Malaysian law, Suresh would have to convert to Islam before they could legally get married.
In March of this year, Islamic officials took the couple's 18-month-old daughter away from Suresh (her Hindu father) and gave her to Revathi's mother (her Muslim grandmother). Officials have ordered Revathi to live with her mother and continue with her Islamic 'counseling'.
Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party, said that moderate Muslims should be very concerned with cases like Revathi's because they could hurt Malaysia's image by showing "a narrow and intolerant face of Islam".
More about Muslim woman, Convert, Hindu
 
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