08 Jan 2011
Forced conversions and the lack of freedom of religion continue to bedevil the Hindu citizens of Malaysia. Coupled with this is the real threat and continuous demolition of Hindu temples, Hindu settlements, and desecration of Hindu burial grounds.
For a country that professes to be multi-ethnic and liberal, with rule of law, a constitution, and progressive attitudes to outsiders (read tourists), the Malaysian reality for Hindu citizens perhaps surpasses the experience of Hindus in illiberal societies like Pakistan. A look at the rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia seems unexceptional:
- Article 11 provides for religious freedom, which includes the right to establish and maintain places of worships and own and acquire property.
- Article 12(2) inter alia provides that no person shall be forced to receive instruction in or to take part in any ceremony of act of worship of a religion other than his own.
- Article 12(4) provides his parent or guardian shall decide the religion of a person below the age of 18 years.
The reality is that forced religious conversions and religious intolerance are part of the creeping Islamization of Malaysia. In any conflict between Islam and Hinduism, the tendency is for Islam to prevail regardless of the merits of the case. This can be seen in several cases of Hindus who have found themselves or their children forcibly converted and unable to reverse the process. This is an area where minority rights are being deliberately overdrawn by majority Muslims.
The decision of the Court of Appeal on 21 August 2010 in the case of Maniam Moorthy shows a disturbing trend wherein the Judiciary has abdicated its powers to the inferior Shariah Courts that were meant to serve Muslims only on matters (personal) pertaining to marriage, divorce, property distribution, and so on. The amendment to Article 121 of the Federal Constitution in 1988 has been manipulated by the state to force Islamisation upon non-Muslims in Malaysia.
The Human Rights Party Malaysia has compiled a number of instances from national newspapers:
- Rani, 56, has been struggling for 30 years to get her Muslim name and religious status changed to Hindu. Rani was only 16 days old when she was given away by her Muslim biological mother to a Hindu neighbour on account of extreme poverty. She was raised as a Hindu by her adopted parents but when she married her marriage registration application was rejected and her Hindu husband forcefully circumcised and converted. He agreed to the conversion when threatened with a jail sentence, and now, Rani’s children and grandchildren have all been denied their Birth Certificates even after 30 years of struggle as they are all practising Hindus. The family threatened to commit suicide if forced to convert. The threats continue…
- A mother of two, S. Banggarma, was unknowingly converted to Islam by state religious authorities as a child of 7 while in a welfare home in Penang against the provisions of Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution. She discovered this when seeking to register her marriage in 2000. Due to her Muslim name, she could not register her marriage to Sockalingam, which was conducted according to Hindu rites. She was also unable to register her husband’s name as the father in her children’s birth certificates. She also faced difficulties in registering the birth of her two children – Kanagaraj, eight, and Hisyanthini, two. Till date she has failed to change her name and religious status, and remains technically a Muslim. Her children are deemed Muslims.
- Indira Gandhi’s three children were converted without her consent and knowledge and her baby girl abducted by her husband who converted to Islam to spite her because of marital problems (see NST 28 April 2009, p. 4). The Islamic authorities and the police refused to secure her baby from her estranged husband despite a High Court Order in her favour (The Star Apr 24, 2009)
- Mr T. Tharmakanoo’s estranged wife converted their two children to Islam without his consent (Conversion without consent – http://www.thenutgraph.com/conversion-without-consent, 21 Apr 2009)
- Till Dec. 19, 2010, the application of Mohd Ramzan Maniarasan to renounce his Islamic faith and return to his original faith was still pending
- On 21 Aug. 2010, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Muslim Shariah Court has sole and absolute jurisdiction to determine if a person is a Muslim. Ms Kaliammal, wife of late Sergeant M. Moorthy, had sought a declaration that her late husband was at all times a practising Hindu. In Dec. 2005 the late M. Moorthy was unilaterally declared a Muslim by the Shariah Court and buried as a Muslim.
- Raimah Bibi, a practicing Hindu, was once adopted by an Indian-Muslim family when a child. Her IC never indicated she was a Muslim, but when she applied for her new Identity Card her name was changed to Rahimah Bibi bt Noordin and identified as a Muslim. On 2 April 2007, seven officers from JAIS arrested her and told her husband that his wife of 21 years was a Muslim and that she and the six children must be placed in a rehabilitation centre. She is still forcibly separated from her family by order of the Islamic Shariah Court.
Right from independence in 1957, the government has countenanced the systematic destruction of Hindu places of worship, which once stood on estates and state-owned estates and land – as Hindus came as indentured labour and built their modest temples of their village and clan deities where they were settled.
To date, Hindu Human Rights Party estimates that nearly 10,000 places of worship have been demolished [all data collected by HINDRAF was confiscated during police raids on official premises in 2006].
Government justifies demolition of the places of worship on grounds that they were ‘illegally’ constructed or were occupying government land; this is contested as:
- Most of the places of worship and graveyards/crematoriums demolished by the state were built in the colonial era and therefore existed for nearly 200 years
- Indian migrant workers transported as indentured labour were assigned to clear large acres of thick jungle and prepare land to become rubber plantation estates. The workers thus settled on the plantations by their colonial masters were permitted to build their places of worship on plantation land, which survives to date.
- After independence, the government of Malaysia failed to uphold its responsibilities under the Federal Constitution and to issue land rights to the Hindu places of worship, though mosques built before independence were granted land titles
- A study by the Centre for Public Policy Studies shows that since the 1970s, whilst in the process of acquiring thousands of plantation estates under the Land Acquisition Act for development purposes, the government has been directly responsible for displacing 300,000 ethnic Indians from the estates and sanctioning destruction of places of worship without a relocation programme on grounds that temples on government land were without permits
- The rights of poor Indians are seldom acknowledged or respected and State Governments tend to use State power and media to manipulate public opinion, corruption and ‘Mandorism’ to evict marginalized Indians who, unaware of their entitlement, are denied legal ownership of land in majority of cases. Their historical occupation of the land appears not to count for much and any offer of compensation seldom matches their loss.
A cursory selection from newspaper reports reveals that:
- There are 23,000 Hindu temples and shrines in Malaysia (NST 4 May 2009 p. 11) but the government refused to grant them land and gazette them as in the case of Islamic places of worship
- These Hindu temples can be demolished any time by fundamentalist Malaysian Islamic authorities
- The Kaliaman Hindu temple near Semambu had to be moved three times in a few years to avoid being demolished ( NST dated 18 Feb. 2009, p. 13)
- In Dec. 2009, opposition controlled state Government of Kedah (North Malaysia) demolished a Hindu Cemetery in Ladang Pekaka Kuala Ketil which was over 100 years old
- Under former Selangor Chief Minister Khir Toyo upto 2007, on an average one Hindu temple was demolished each week (reply to question by Mr Manoharan Malayalam, Legislative Member for Kota Alam Shah in early 2008 at State Legislative Assembly)
- In early September 2009, Malay Muslims were allowed to stage a public protest against the relocation of a 100 over year-old Hindu Temple from another location in Shah Alam to their locality. The protestors were allowed to parade a severed bull’s head without interference from the police who were present. The Malays spat at and placed their feet on the severed cow head.
- On 5 Sept. 2009 HINDRAF held a peaceful candlelight vigil to protest the Muslim bull head insult. Sixteen HINDRAF members including Legal Adviser P. Uthaya Kumar were forcibly stopped and arrested. (See Makkal Osai, 6 Sept. p. 14)
- HRP, Malaysia estimates that a high proportion of existing temples on plantation land risk being demolished due to government’s reluctance to grant land rights and legitimise their existence
- In 2010 government failed to provide funding for places of worship for Hindus and non-Muslims worshippers for financial year 2010–2011; large acres of land are regularly granted and allocated for mosques with adequate funding for the financial year.
- Cakra Guna (52) torched himself to death to stop Selangor state government from demolishing Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Puchong City Centre on 2 Nov. 2010. This is only the tip of the iceberg of the Indian poors’ suffering and heartache in being denied permanent land for their temples, cemeteries, Tamil schools and Indian villages (which are deemed squatters).
- The century old Muneswarar Temple, Teluk Intan, suffers drain water stagnation despite temple devotees lodging formal complaints with the District Works Department over the last three years. Scores of Hindu temples have been forced to relocate next to sewerage ponds and Industrial area “wastelands”.
- Selangor state government recently allocated 15,000 square feet (just over one quarter acre) for Padang Jawa Sri Maha Mariamman Temple after demolishing it in 2007, below a Telekom Tower which could endanger the lives of the priests and devotees
- The 50-year-old Perianna Muneswarar Hindu temple in Air Panas, Setapak, was razed in less than 20 minutes by Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL) workers on 24 June 2010
- Hindu temple in PPR Sungai Bunus, Setapak was demolished by the DBKL in uniform, on 24 June 2010 (The Star Metro 28 June, p. M14).
- Cheras Hindu Temple, Selangor, built in 1936 on 1.6 acres of land, today occupies only 1119 square meters, the government taking the rest to build roads (Malaysia Nanban, 29 Aug. 2010, p. 16)
- Arulmigu Karumariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur was demolished on 27 April 2010 by a developer with no advance notice under police protection when the majority of devotees were at work.
- TNB Hindu Temple, Bangsar, has not been granted land by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and could be demolished with impunity (Tamil Nesan, 10 Dec. 2009, p. 10).
- Mathurai Veeran Hindu Temple, Shah Alam, was demolished by Selangor state government on 22 Oct. 2010, and the deity left beheaded (Tamil Nesan, 23 Oct. 2009; Malaysia Nanban front page; Makkal Osai front page)
- Hundred year old Sri Naga Kanni Maha Mariappan Temple in Teluk Intan, served notice to move within two months (The Star 30 Sept. 2010, p. N49).
- In 2008, the land office repossessed the land belonging to Tiruvalluvar Tamil School opposite the present location of the temple.
- Due to denial of land, the Muniswarar Temple, Kampung Pendamar, Klang, was built at the back lane of the house of M. Sinnaalagi (50). Selangor land office enforcement officers demolished temple on 10 Aug. 2010 (New Straits Times, 11 Aug. 2010, p. 24).
- Kulai Besar Hindu Temple was made into a housing project and the ancient temple forced to move two kilometres away where there are very few Hindus without land title issued.
This is the true face of Malaysia’s religious freedom and respect for the dignity and culture of its citizenry.