GEORGE TOWN: A dispute over the religious status of a 38-year-old woman caused a funeral to be aborted here.
The woman, identified by her family as Teoh Cheng Cheng (pic), was said to have died at her apartment in Macallum Street on Saturday.
At about 1pm yesterday, just as her coffin was being prepared to be lifted into a hearse, the police arrived to stop the cortege from leaving the apartment compound, citing a “religious issue” as the reason.
About 90 minutes later, officers from the Penang Islamic Affairs Department (Jaipp) came to claim the body, producing documents to show the woman had converted to Islam in 1997 and had adopted the Muslim name Nora Teoh Abdullah.
However, a family member argued that Cheng Cheng’s original name had remained unchanged in her MyKad.
After several hours of discussion among the bereaved family members, Pengkalan Kota assemblyman Lau Keng Ee and Jaipp, the family relented and allowed the officers to take away the coffin.
The coffin was moved into a Jaipp hearse and carried to the Penang Hospital mortuary at around 3.50pm.
A cousin of the dead woman, Teoh Choo Cheow, 52, said the family would pursue the matter in court and agreed that, in the meantime, Cheng Cheng’s remains would be kept at the mortuary.
Grieving mother Tan Ma Suan, 64, said she was upset the Jaipp officers came when the Chinese funeral rites for her daughter were almost over.
“I have no qualms if they wanted to claim her body at the Penang Hospital mortuary on the day of her death. But why now? Must this come about while we are still grieving?” she sobbed.
It is learnt the family had planned to cremate the deceased at the Batu Gantung crematorium.
Contacted on the matter, Jaipp director Datuk Sazali Hussein said the body would be kept at the Penang Hospital mortuary pending a court decision.
State Islamic Affairs committee chairman Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim said family members had consented for the body to be sent to the mortuary.
“It is the right of every person to seek legal reprieve and the family members are at liberty to take the matter to court,” he said.