Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More heartbreak

This latest heart-rending incident (from Malaysiakini) is another reason why urgent action is called for. The rakyat cannot plead ignorance, while the government cannot shut their ears and eyes and deny the terrible injury to human dignity, much less nation-building. If anything, such perceived indifference or foot-dragging merely confirms complicity.

Yoges Palaniappan
Apr 16,07

Rubber tapper P Marimuthu’s life changed drastically when seven officers from the Selangor Religious Department (Jais) came to his house in Kampung Baru Tambahan Ulu Yam early this month.

The father of six was told that his wife of 21 years, Raimah Bibi, was a Muslim and that she and their children - aged between four and 12 - must be placed in a rehabilitation centre.

The couple’s eldest son was staying with an uncle at that time.

Relating his ordeal at a press conference in the Parliament lobby today, the 44-year-old rubber tapper said he had no choice but to let the officers take his family away on April 2.

He also claimed that an ‘ustaz’ (religious scholar) had told him to covert to Islam or threatened to charge him for khalwat (close proximity) with Raimah, 40.

Raimah, who returned to help him with the rubber tapping work two days later, told him that Jais had placed the family in the nearby Kampung Melayu Liga Emas.

She purportedly said the villagers, who are predominantly Malays, have been asked to keep an eye on her daily activities and prevent her from meeting outsiders, especially her husband.

Marimuthu said he felt threatened by the villagers’ stares when he attempted to visit his wife and children.

“My wife was so afraid that she refused to come out and talk to me. I had no choice but to leave that village,” he said.

According to him, Raimah managed to sneak their children over to his house several times without anybody’s knowledge.

“We will be together for some time and then she’ll leave again to the other house,” he said.

Another heart-rending saga

Marimuthu also does not know if his wife was a practising Muslim before they got married. Since then, he said, the two of them have been practising Hindus.

“We got married in a temple, according to Hindu rituals. All our kids were brought up as Hindus,” he said.

He said Raimah, who was adopted by an Indian Muslim family, cannot remember her adopted mother and her late adopted father had approved of their relationship.

According to Marimuthu, his wife’s MyKad had stated her name as Raimah Bibi binti Noordin and her religion as Islam.

The couple did not apply to the National Registration Department to have this corrected either.

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang, who accompanied Marimuthu, said the authorities learnt about Raimah’s ‘religious status’ when the couple enrolled their children into a school and copies of their identity cards were submitted to the Dducation Department.

“It is a simple mistake that has brought a great tragedy to the family,” he said, adding that the matter must be checked with the authorities in order for the family to be reunited.

“This is the latest in heart-rendering family sagas like in the case of R Subashini where human rights are completely ignored. Such incidents should be stopped,” he stressed.

The problem, usually described as 'sensitive', is not given enough column space in the press for several reasons:

1. It is sensitive to a large segment of the population who profess the Islamic religion

2. We who are not muslims have been reminded (nay, threatened) that we do not know what we are saying because we are not qualified, being neither muslim or Islamic clergy/ulamak

3. Open discussion is offensive - again because it's sensitive - and therefore we must solve it through the 'proper' channels, sight unseen because we do not want to sully the image of Islam. Besides it also makes the government look bad, or incompetent

4. The authorities are aware of it and as our elected representatives, we must trust their better judgment and wisdom to do the right thing

5. The fault lies in a few 'overzealous' and 'misguided' religious officials, and therefore clearer guidelines are what's needed, not Article 11

6. Anyway, it's the majority who voted BN in power that count above all. As a case in point, take this comment by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz. He worries that the 70% Malay constituency might register their unhappiness through the ballot box: "It is just politically impractical for Muslims in the government to support the setting up of the IFC if it did not have the support of the Muslim community."

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