Malaysia Pressured On Conversions
The country is pulsing with the story of a 29-year-old woman, identified as M. Revathi, an ethnic Indian who converted to her ethnic faith, Hinduism. She was detained for 180 days, during which time, she says, she was subjected to intimidation and mental tortureIslamic religious police.
The kicker: This didn't happen in some mosque, it happened in a state-run Islamic "counseling" center.
Revathi's case follows that of Lina Joy, an ethnic Malay, born a Muslim, who converted to Christianity. Joy fought all the way to the equivalent of the Supreme Court to get the word "Muslim" removed from her identity card. She lost, with the court's chief justice saying it was a matter of Sharia law, so the civil courts could not intervene.
Now, says Reuters, it's an issue that's rankling the federal government:
Malaysia's prime minister vowed on Monday to look into politically sensitive cases of Muslims seeking to renounce Islam in favor of other religions.This will be interesting. Even if the federal government wants to put a moderate, tolerant face on things, the imams and mullahs won't stand for it. Should the Malay feds liberalize conversion, the first public convert to test the new system may not live to enjoy it for long.
Mainly Muslim Malaysia, which has sizeable non-Muslim minorities, faces an acid test over the issue of religious freedom that could strain race and religious relations.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Islamic religious authorities should be ready to handle apostasy cases.
"We have to be ready to listen and to solve the problems," he told reporters. "This is not about something that cannot be done. For those who don't want to be Muslims anymore, what can you do?"
Islam, the religion of peace ... and tolerance.