KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 — The Malaysia Hindu Sangam, the country’s main advisory body on Hindu worship, said it plans to sue the National Registration Department (NRD) for refusing to change the state religion of Zarinah Abdul Majid, the woman at the centre of the latest row over faith conversions here.
Its president, Datuk R. S. Mohan Shan, said as a public institution, the NRD is obliged to at least investigate the religious background of Zarinah, who alleged that she was unilaterally converted to Islam by her estranged father as a child.
He said the government department should not have delegated its duties to the religious authorities.
“We are looking for lawyers to help us seek legal recourse because they have denied her the right to explain why she wants to leave Islam,” Mohan Shan told The Malay Mail Online.
He said the NRD rejected Zarinah’s first application to switch her religious status in 2007 because she failed to obtain her father’s signature.
In her second attempt, made just months ago, Zarinah’s application was completely ignored, he added.
“If they leave it to the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) or the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to investigate, surely she will not be able to get a favourable response,” said Mohan Shan.
On Sunday, Jais arrived unannounced at Zarinah’s Hindu wedding ceremony in a temple in Sungai Way after it received a tip-off that the 32-year-old bride is a Muslim.
According to Mohan Shan, the bride went ahead with the ceremony but ended up being escorted out before the reception at the temple.
He alleged that Jais has since interrogated Zarinah and her Hindu mother.
“When I spoke to her she said Jais had requested that she sticks to her current religion, which indirectly means they now want her husband to convert,” he claimed.
“How is this freedom to practise one’s religion?”
Zarinah had reportedly tried to have her marriage registered under the Malaysian Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 before pushing ahead with the Hindu marriage ritual, but it was declined as it does not apply to Muslims.
She has claimed that she and her siblings were secretly converted by her Muslim convert father when they were children, but they have long been practising Hindus since their father divorced their mother and abandoned the family over 20 years ago.
Jais deputy director Ahmad Zaki Arshad was earlier reported to have said they were investigating the case under Section 10 of the Shariah Criminal Enactment (Selangor) 1995, for insulting or bringing disrepute to Islam.
Jakim had last year said that a marriage between a Muslim and non-Muslim is “completely prohibited” and against the principle of beliefs of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah — the prevailing Islamic philosophy in Malaysia.
The Selangor government, which also oversees Jais, admonished the religious authority for the “embarrassing” episode and has instructed it to assist Zarinah in changing her religious status as the latter “was never a practising Muslim”.
Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said Jais breached standard operating procedures in raiding the wedding held over the weekend.
Attempts to reach Zarinah have been futile. Her sister told The Malay Mail Online that she is unwilling to speak to the media.
“We will speak to you later, we can’t now,” said another male relative who answered Zarinah calls yesterday.
The bride, whose name was given as Zarina Abdullah Majid in a statement from the Selangor mentri besar’s office, has also been spelled Zarina Abdul Majid and Zarena Abdul Majib in other news reports.
The Malay Mail Online has not been able to reach either the bride or Jais to confirm her real name.