Prayer protest rails at sharia law

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2007, 12:00am

Leaders of the major non-Muslim religions yesterday launched a week of 'prayer protest' against what they describe as intrusion of sharia law into their lives.

The rare, nationwide campaign is led by the Malaysian Religious Consultative Council, which groups Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs.

'We are not against Muslims, Islam or the government,' council president Chee Peck Kiat said. 'But we are aggrieved and disappointed that non-Muslims have been told to appear before the Islamic sharia court for relief.

'The constitution is the supreme law of the country and a person of one religion should not be subjected to the laws of another religion.' A superior court last month ordered a Hindu woman to seek relief in an Islamic court to stop her husband from converting their three-year-old son to Islam.

The couple married under civil law in 1996 but subsequently her husband converted to Islam and proceeded to convert their son to Islam.

Two Muslim judges in the three-judge panel rejected Subashini Saravanan's appeal to stop the conversion, saying she should appeal to the Islamic court.

The third judge, a Hindu, dissented, arguing the constitution clearly states Islamic law is only for Muslims, who form 60 per cent of the population of 26 million.

The judgment angered non-Muslims, who said Muslim judges were failing to uphold the secular constitution and civil liberties. Ms Subashini has appealed to the Federal Court, the country's highest, where other similar cases are piling up for a decision to be made.

'The cases might be politically explosive but the judges must not delay further but decide in accordance with existing law,' opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said.

Gerakan Malaysia, a leading Chinese political party, urged the government to set up a special constitutional court to decide such cases.

'The government must be brave enough to tackle this problem now before things get worse,' Gerakan Malaysia senior leader Tan Kee Kwong said.