Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Punishing the innocent.

After watching this clip, you may certainly think so. However, after doing some research, I find the situation more convoluted that it seems on the surface. The case seems to rest on the fact that the marriage isn't legal by any law in Malaysia.

According to this document from the Kuala Lumpur Bar there seems to be a provision for a spouse to renounce Islam and convert to another religion. However, this is only allowed if ordered by the Syariah courts. There is also an implication that non-Muslims cannot marry Muslims as a non-Muslim spouse can apply for ancillary relief and get a divorce 3 months after a spouse converts into Islam [section 51 of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976].

As claimed by the law expert from Universiti Islam Antarabangsa that there was no legal marriage. According to our government, if a Muslim wishes to marry a non-Muslim, that person needs to convert to Islam. So, they couldn't have gotten married under civil law unless they had obtained a court order from the Syariah courts. They can't get married under Syariah law either as one is obviously a Hindu and the other claims to have renounced Islam.

Our legal system in Malaysia is complicated. Article 11 states that everyone has the freedom of religion. However, Article 121 states that the Federal courts have no jurisdiction over any cases that fall under Syariah law. Since, the wife was born a Muslim and hadn't sought to renounce Islam [not that she would particularly succeed at that], and they have no legal marriage under the civil law, they are entirely under the mercy of the Syariah court, in accordance to the law. What makes the situation really convoluted is that there isn't a uniform Syariah law in Malaysia. Each state in Malaysia has full jurisdiction of it's own Syariah laws.

This case highlights a major issue in Malaysia. Just like the government, the laws are full of contradictions and confusion. Our laws are intrinsically divisive and against our government's claims on integration. No amount of national service is going to help integrate the people if they cannot get married and settle in peace. The laws are breaking up the family unit and punishing innocent children for the mistakes of their parents. Something has to change. Maybe this movement is a good start.

PS. It should be fairly obvious by now that I'm not a lawyer (IANAL) and that I know nothing at all about the law.

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