I refer to the malaysiakini report Muslim or Hindu? A family ripped apart.
Many were angry with R Subashini's husband Mohd Shafee Saravanan Abdullah for his conversion to Islam and the conversion of their minor children along with him. It looked as though it was the men who was always at fault.
But the women are not far behind. We now have the case of Audrey Christina Samuel @ Nur Adrayana Qestina Abdullah who has done the same with her two children aged 5 and 1 without the knowledge of her Hindu husband. So it is not only the men - the women are equally capable of doing the same.
Is the government going to come up with some legislative solution to this legal quagmires that take place or is this going to be another battle brewing between the Muslims and the Hindus in multi-racial Malaysia?
A young Hindu man who had married his Muslim wife by the name of Najeera Farvinli Mohamed Jalali has also been separated from his wife by the religious authorities because their marriage is not legally valid. All this cases are only surfacing now because of the publicity that the media both local and international seem to be giving. The courts are going to have to be prepared to see many of these cases seeking a solution within the ambits of our current legal system which clearly delineates the boundaries of inter-religious marriages.
Our constitution provides certain safeguards but these guarantees are with exceptions, so where are these people going to go for a solution? There have been suggestions for a constitutional court which will solely deal with inter-religious matters but is this really needed when we have our capable civil courts which are more than qualified to handle constitutional issues? These are pressing questions which the government needs to answer before the next general elections.
Religion, being a very touchy and sensitive matter to most Malaysians, will have a major part to play in the coming elections, as cases like these are likely to be brought up to see if a political solution can be found by the ruling coalition's many political aspirants who will be contesting on a 'sure win' BN ticket.
If pressing matters like these are not given their adequate attention, they could affect the racial unity and integration that we have built over the years. Conversion when a marriage fails should not be used as a 'back-door' method to get back at one's spouse or to make it impossible for the other to respond because of 'jurisdictional blockages'. It must be done when one has fully understood all the repercussions - both social and legal - that will ensue out of the decision to convert.
With the surfacing of this matters, the government will be in a better situation if it allows some form of inter-faith dialogue where the public will be able to address these issues without the fear of being prosecuted and harassed by the religious authorities. The Inter-Faith Commission as suggested by the Bar Council and several NGOs is one way through which we can start accepting and acknowledging these issues as being very Malaysian in nature and in dire need of a accepted solution.
These racial demarcations and division cannot continue to exist in a Malaysia that is already asking questions. We have to accept that we are multi-racial and that it is here to stay. We cannot run away from that reality. Integration cannot be just superficial - it has to be practiced with Muslims understanding other religions and the other religions understanding Islam. We have to be fair and we have to start now.
Let's not allow our 50th year of independence to be marred by questions of whether we are truly a united Malaysia which has space for all to live in in peace.