Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bodysnatchers update

Recently I blogged about the case of a Catholic man who converted to Islam to marry a Muslim woman. He converted back to the Church and made a statutary declaration before a Commissioner of Oaths and had his identification papers changed to reflect his new status as a Christian revert.

He died and the Islamic Affairs Department prevented his family from burying him or from claiming his body. The case is now before the Shariah courts. Recently, his daughthers, who are non-Muslim, were subpoenaed to appear before the Sharia courts. They of course rightly refused as the matter is settled by civil law and should not be under the Islamic courts' jurisdiction.

Here's the news story:

Daughters refuse to attend Syariah High Court to testify

KUALA LUMPUR: The family of Rayappan Anthony deems the act of forcing them to attend the Shah Alam Syariah High Court as harassment.

Not one of the late van driver’s three daughters, who were subpoenaed on Monday, was at the Syariah High Court in Shah Alam yesterday during the rescheduled hearing of a review of the Dec 1 order that granted control of the body to Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais).

Mais’ counsel Juraish Kamaruddin informed the court that the subpoenas were served and that the council received a letter from the family’s lawyer A. Sivanesan.

In the letter, Sivanesan had acknowledged the receipt of the subpoenas but stressed that they “were not Muslims and that they would not be attending any proceedings at the Syariah Court”.

Rayappan: Died of complications from diabetes last Wednesday
In the absence of Rayappan’s children, judge Abu Zaky Mohammad deferred his verdict until today to allow him to refer the matter to Selangor Syariah Court chief judge Datuk Johdi Toha.

On Monday night, Rayappan's family members claimed that two Mais officers and two policemen went to the family’s house in Setapak to serve subpoenas on his three daughters to attend the Syariah Court.

The family members lodged a report on the incident at the Brickfields district police headquarters yesterday.

Sivanesan, who accompanied the family, questioned the action taken by the authorities.

“Why did the Mais officers and two policemen come to the house at 8.40pm and serve them subpoenas?” he asked.

On Friday, an order allowing Mais to claim Rayappan’s body was put on hold to enable his family to tell the Syariah High Court their side of the story.

A hearing was scheduled on Monday afternoon to allow them to testify as to why the body should be released to them.

However, Rayappan’s 65-year-old widow Lourdes Mary Maria Soosay, a cancer patient, was at that time filing an application at the civil High Court here for his body to be released to her.

Rayappan died of complications from diabetes at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital on Wednesday.

When his family went to claim his body on Thursday, Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) officers stopped them, claiming Rayappan was a Muslim.

On Friday, the Shah Alam Syariah High Court granted an application by Mais to claim Rayappan’s body but required the council to get the endorsement of the Federal Territory Syariah High Court.

The family claimed that the National Registration Department issued Rayappan with a MyKad in 2003 in his original name and stated his religion as Christian. They acknowledged that he had been a Muslim before but claimed he returned to Christianity seven years ago.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia, grouping the Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants and the Catholic Church and now currenlty chaired by the Bishop of Malacca-Johore, His Lordship Bishop Paul Tan, SJ, has stepped in and question the constitutionality of this action by the Sharia court.

Allow Rayappan a Christian burial, says group

KUALA LUMPUR: The family of the late Rayappan Anthony should be allowed to be buried according to their Christian faith and his professed faith, said Christian Federation of Malaysia chairman Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing.

He added that according to information gathered, Rayappan, 71, was a Roman Catholic and had six children from his Christian marriage.

He said the deceased converted to Islam in 1990 when he married a Muslim woman.

“However, he reconverted to Christianity in 1999 and subsequently confirmed his profession of his Christian faith by way of a statutory declaration in front of a Commissioner of Oaths,” Tan said here yesterday.

“The relevant documents prepared by a lawyer and executed by the Commissioner for Oaths were submitted to the National Registration Department, which accepted the declaration and reinstated Rayappan’s religious status to Christianity.”

He also said the MyKad of the deceased (issued in 2000) had the word “Christianity” printed below his name and any obstruction to his burial according to Christian rights would contravene Article 11 of the Constitution which guarantees the right of a person to profess and practise his faith, and in this particular case the right of the family to bury Rayappan according to his professed religion at the point of his death.

The Federal Opposition Leader has also stepped in:

Kit Siang calls on ministers to act on Article 121

KUALA LUMPUR: Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang has called on Gerakan and MIC leaders to propose at the Cabinet meeting today that Article 121 (1A) of the Constitution be amended in view of the controversies relating to the burial of Muslim converts.

“The Cabinet should be bold enough to consider an amendment to rectify the injustices which were never intended to be created by Parliament when the constitutional amendment was enacted in 1988,” he said.

Article 121(1A) states that the High Courts and inferior courts shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts.

Lim said Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik were in the 1988 Cabinet and voted for the Constitution Amendment Bill in Parliament on March 18, 1988.

In the latest case, Rayappan Anthony, 71, converted to Islam in 1990 following a second marriage and was said to have converted back to Christianity in 1999.

He is said to have confirmed his Christian faith through a statutory declaration.

Wonder whats going to happen next. Let us all pray for his widow and their family that God may be close to them in this moment of trial.

We also pray for all Malaysians that the rule of law and not the rule by law, may prevail.

Kyrie eleison.

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