Revathi, an ethnic Indian woman, has been held in a rehabilitation center run by Islamic authorities since January 2007 because she wants the State to acknowledge she is a Hindu and not a Muslim.
Revathi was born to Indian parents who had converted to Islam before her birth. She claims she was raised by her grandmother as a Hindu. She and Suresh were married according to Hindu rites in March 2004. Revathi was advised by the Malacca Islamic Religious Department to make an application at the Malacca Syariah High Court to confirm her status as a Hindu. She did as she was told.
However, the Syariah Court ordered her detained in a rehabilitation centre in Ulu Yam, Selangor under Melaka's Syariah criminal laws for 100 days. This detention was extended in Revathi's absence for a further 80 days supposedly because she had not "repented". In the meanwhile, Revathi's Muslim mother obtained a Syariah Court order granting her custody of Revathi and Suresh's 15 month old baby. That order was enforced on Suresh's Hindu family with the assistance of the police.
The family is now torn apart - with the mother in detention, the child with the grandparents and the father in limbo without his family.
There will be a peaceful candlelight vigil in support of Revathi and many others like her, who are unable to fully exercise their Constitutionally- guaranteed freedom of faith.The vigil is an initiative of civil society organisations including MCCBCHST (the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism) and various women's rights groups (All Women's Action Society (AWAM), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Women's Aid Organisation (WAO), Women's Centre for Change, Penang (WCC) and Women's Development Collective (WDC)).
Date: Tuesday, 19 June 2007
Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: Dataran Merdeka (at the flagpole)
Now, this really got me thinking a little about our precious little country, Malaysia. In article 11 of the constitution, it states that 'every person has the right to profess and practice his religion'. I think its a little hard to see where this fits into Revathi's case, in fact, it might not fit at all. All I can say is that I'm a little suprised that the people who should in fact, be making a big deal about this are keeping quiet.
I say this with all the due respect to my muslim friends and acquaintances. But shouldn't the muslims be worrying that their rights are being blatantly trampled upon? Its their freedom that's being restricted, and the non-muslims to a certain extent as well. From what I can see, there is no freedom in their choice of religion irrespective of what convictions they have. I would think that one should be given the liberty to make a choice, even if the choice is to remain as status quo.
I think I'd enjoy a walk in Dataran Merdeka this Tuesday night. Maybe I'll bring along some candles as well. After all, its a great opportunity to hear a little more in detail about Revathi's scenario and possibly to get some good pictures as well.