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Wednesday April 11, 2007
By FLORENCE A. SAMY
KUALA LUMPUR: The Attorney-General’s Chambers is mulling over the setting up of a special commission to study religious-sensitive cases like the Lina Joy matter, said Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said that in his opinion, the commission, if approved, should comprise the heads of various religions.
Nazri said the proposal would be submitted to the Cabinet once it was finalised.
“In my opinion, the question of conversion should be settled in an ‘extra legal manner,’ especially when children are involved,” he said.
Replying to Karpal Singh’s (DAP – Bukit Gelugor) query on why a decision had yet to be reached in the Lina Joy case, Nazri said:
“The decision is difficult to make as it is very sensitive and we have to consider the consequences. Even if it is made in the right decree, the acceptance may be difficult,” he said at the Dewan Rakyat when winding up the debate on the motion of thanks on the royal address.
Expressing hope that such a commission would find a resolution to sensitive cases, Nazri noted that the setting up of a Federal Constitutional Court was not the answer to such cases.
“Even with the Federal Constitutional Court, the judge will be of a certain faith and if he makes a decision favouring that faith, he may be labelled biased,” he said.
The Government, Nazri said, had ordered the A-G’s Chambers to study in detail issues pertaining to cases such as that of M. Moorthy and A. Rayappan, including gathering input from all sides.
“It cannot be denied that such cases have raised a lot of sensitive questions that need a deeper understanding between the races if they are to be solved permanently,” he said.
Although the Moorthy and Rayappan cases involved the conversion of a non-Muslim to Muslim, Article 121 (A) will not be amended. Nazri also said the civil court cannot interfere on matters under the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court.
He also said Syariah laws would not be forced upon non-Muslims and the A-G’s Chamber’s had been ordered to study matters arising from divorce case of a non-Muslim couple when one party converted to Islam.
The family of A. Rayappan, 71, were involved in a legal tussle with the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) on the right to claim his body following his death on Nov 29, last year.
The former van driver converted to Islam in 1990 but left the religion and returned to Catholicism in 1999. Mais eventually withdrew its claims to the body and stated that evidence pointed to Rayappan being a non-Muslim.
He was finally cremated according to Christian rites on Dec 8.
A controversy was triggered following the death of Mount Everest climber Sjn M. Moorthy alias Muhammad Abdullah on Dec 20, 2005.
His widow, S. Kaliammal, and the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council were embroiled in a legal tussle over the right to bury him when it was discovered that he had converted to Islam the previous year.
His widow, however, sought a declaration in the civil court that Moorthy lived a Hindu life.
On Dec 28, 2005, the High Court ruled that it would not disturb the declaration that Moorthy was a Muslim because the latter was under the purview of the Syariah Court system and he was eventually buried according to Muslim rites.
Lina Joy, born a Muslim, is claiming that she had converted to Christianity and is seeking to restate her religious status in her MyKad. A court decision is pending.
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