Tuesday, August 10, 2010

US-based HAF calls Banggarma verdict 'religiously discriminatory'

KUALA LUMPUR: US-based The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has condemned the Penang High Court decision to deny 28 year old Siti Hasnah Banggarma the right to change her religion back to Hinduism.

After a long, drawn out court battle, Banggarma was left with little hope as Justice Mohammed Yacoob Sam referred the case contesting her conversion to the Syariah Court.

Banggarma, born a Hindu, claimed that state authorities forcibly converted her to Islam at the age of seven while she was under the care of a government-run orphanage.

She later married a Hindu in a traditional Hindu ceremony, but could not officially register her marriage nor could she list her Hindu husband as the father of their children on birth certificates.

Malaysian law requires any non-Muslim marrying a Muslim to convert to Islam before a marriage is legally recognized.

“The right to religious freedom has continued to erode in Malaysia, and minorities continue to suffer,” said Professor Ramesh Rao, HAF’s Human Rights Coordinator.

“This case, which was covered in HAF’s 2009 human rights report, is yet another of example of officially sanctioned religious discrimination and coercion."

Although Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, minorities, particularly ethnic Indians and Hindus, have continued to face serious discrimination over the years.

HAF’s annual Hindu human rights report, 'Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights 2009', documented the discrimination, intimidation and persecution faced by Malaysia’s minority Hindu population.

The Foundation has also supported the work of Hindraf, a human rights organization that monitors, documents and publicly highlights human rights abuses faced by the country’s minority Hindu population.

“We hope that Banggarma will eventually be permitted to return to the faith of her birth,” added Rao.

“HAF will continue to monitor this case along with the litany of human rights abuses in Malaysia.“

The Hindu American Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism.

P.Uthayakumar’s speech at 1st Hindraf National Convention (8/8/10)

(Refer Free Malaysia Today 8/8/10)
KUALA LUMPUR: Human Rights Party (HRP) leader P Uthayakumar today launched a scathing attack on Umno, calling it the “real enemy” of the Indian community in Malaysia.
The Hindraf leader and former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee also accused Umno of splitting the Indians, and destroying their heritage.
Addressing some 300 delegates at HRP’s first national convention here, the party pro-tem secretary-general also blamed Umno for attempting to create fissures in Hindraf.IMG_2136
“When I was arrested under the ISA in 2007, a police officer with the rank of DSP told me that he will destroy Hindraf in three months.
“They even launched a covert operation called “Ops Padam Hindraf” then. However, we are still here today,” he said to a rousing applause.
Without mincing his words, the outspoken lawyer also accused Umno of “ethnic cleansing” through the destruction of the Indian community’s heritage structures and depriving Indian students of scholarships.
“They destroy our temples, cemeteries and schools. They deny scholarships for our children although they have excellent results. If this is not ethnic cleansing, what else am I to call it?” he asked.
Uthayakumar then ridiculed the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government, saying that it used 11 political parties to destroy Hindraf but still failed.
“They needed the help of 11 political parties to defeat us but we are still here. Do not believe their propaganda claiming Hindraf is split now,” he said.
Uthayakumar said the Indians here were only demanding their basic rights guaranteed under the federal constitution.
IMG_2135 “They always quote Article 153 of the constitution whenever they think we question Malay rights. However, the second part of the article emphasises on the protection of the legitimate interests of the non-bumiputeras which is conveniently forgotten by the ruling party,” he said.
Pakatan slammed as well
Meanwhile, the HRP leader also took a swipe at Pakatan Rakyat for allegedly ignoring the Indians because it wanted to be “politically correct”.
“Indian lawmakers from Pakatan are scared to highlight Indian woes in order not to offend the Malays too much. They fear they might lose Malay votes in the next election.
“They also go around claiming they have given land titles to our temples and schools but when we checked, it is nothing but hogwash,” he said.
Uthayakumar also pledged that HRP would not become a tool of political coalitions, saying that it would only stand for the people.
In a related development, HRP delegates passed a resolution that the movement would be known as Hindraf Makkal Sakthi from today.
Hindraf was banned by the government after it was accused of engaging in activities which posed a threat to public order.
Several other resolutions were passed, including to adopt Hindraf’s controversial 18-point demand without any alteration.
The party also urged the government to provide full aid to all Tamil schools nationwide and scholarships for deserving students.
“We also call on the government to issue MyKad and birth certificates to all Indians who do not have the documents under a special programme.
“The government must make things easy for them by just requesting for a police report. The documents must be handed to them within three months from the day of application.”
The party also agreed to accept all decisions made by its national coordination team and Hindraf chairman and Uthayakumar’s brother, Waytha Moorthy, who is in London on self imposed exile.
“We also agree that Waytha should continue to promote our struggle at the international arena and lead the movement until our demands are met,” said its national adviser N Ganasen.

Banggarma's belief in Hinduism must be honoured

From Mike Mohamed Ghouse, via e-mail

As a Muslim organisation, we appeal to the judge to reverse his decision.

" ... Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error ..." [2:256]

This is Islam's unambiguous affirmation of freedom of faith, which also applies to changing of faith.

The Qur'an illuminates before the humanity the two highways [90:10], one of which leads to salvation. Islam is an invitation to the highway toward salvation, but it is based on freedom of choice.

The verdict amounts to forcing Ms Banggarma to believe what she does not believe, that is not Islamic in any sense.

The original intention of such ruling was to prevent treason against the state for switching loyalties to harm the state, sort of double agent.

Banggarma is no harm to the state, her belief in Hinduism must be honoured.

The writer represents the Texas-based World Muslim Congress.

1st National Hindraf Makkal Sakthi Convention