Christians and other religious minorities in Malaysia held candles and a banner in an interfaith protest against what they feel is the increasing threat from the country’s Islamic authorities.
Standing outside the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, religious minorities banned together to protest the inequality in the justice system for religious minorities, using the recent case of a forced Islamic burial on a Hindu family as an example.
On Wednesday, M. Moorthy, 36, was buried in a Muslim ceremony by the Malaysia Islamic-Affairs department against the will of his Hindu widow. The Department claims that before his death, Moorthy had converted to Islam, but his wife said that he never converted and that she was by his side when he died.
The disagreement on Moorthy’s faith led to a legal battle for his body. After hearings by the Shari’a court (the religious court) and the High Court, the widow eventually lost and her husband’s body was given a Muslim burial.
No one in Moorthy’s family attended the burial except his older brother who had converted to Muslim.
"The decision today is a setback for race relations in this country," ethnic Indian lawmaker M. Kulasegaran told reporters after the widow failed in her legal bid to take custody of her husband's body and give him a Hindu cremation, Reuters reported.
According to the U.S. Department of State 2000 census figure, approximately 60 percent of the population in Malaysia is Muslim, 19 percent Buddhist, 9 percent Christians, 6 percent Hindu, and 3 percent traditional Chinese religions.
Although limitations on religious freedom were introduced in the 1980s, the government relaxed some restrictions, such as on places of worship, the issue of missionary visas, public meetings and publications in 1999. Yet, it is still illegal to proselytize Muslims.
The International Religious Freedom Report 2005 noted that generally there was amicable relationship among religions in Malaysia for the period of July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2005 when the State Department gathered information about the country’s religious freedom.
However, Reuters reported that in January, religious police raided a Kuala Lumpur nightclub, rounding up and humiliating dozens of Muslim women for “un-Islamic” dress. Also Mission Network News reported that in April, two Americans were brought in custody, without charges, after being detained for handing out Christian literature.