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Dead man's religion sparks row: Malaysian judge says law inadequate

world Updated: Jul 07, 2009 14:21 IST

The row over Malaysian art director Mohan Singh's religion following his death has led to a judge observing that there is "inadequacy" in the law over non-Muslims converting to Islam.

Judge Rosnaini Saub made this observation Monday while giving the ruling that Mohan Singh was a Muslim when he died and should be buried as per the Islamic custom.

In doing so, the judge rejected the appeal of Singh's family against the ruling of a Syariah court that deals with Muslims.

The family wanted custody of the body of Singh, who died May 25. His body is lying in hospital since the Islamic authorities claim that he was a Muslim.

His family, including Singh's three sisters - Baldev Kaur, Balbir Kaur and Jaswant Kaur - had insisted that Mohan Singh was a Sikh and he had performed their mother's death ceremony as per Sikh rites.

The sisters' case was that Mohan Singh had never told them that he converted to Islam, The New Straits Times reported Tuesday.

The judge said it was 'unfortunate' that they did not know about it and that this had no bearing on the case.

"It is unfortunate that the deceased did not tell them. The fact that the deceased lived a lifestyle inconsistent with that of a Muslim convert does not alter his status as a Muslim in the eyes of existing laws," Judge Saub said.

Saub said the issue of apostasy and renunciation of Islam was a matter of Islamic law.

"In this case, the applicants (Mohan's family members) being non-Muslim cannot go to Syariah court as they have no locus standi. On the other hand, they cannot come to the civil court as it has no jurisdiction over the subject matter.

"So who then shall decide whether the deceased was never a non-Muslim when the deceased's conversion to Islam is disputed by the applicants?" she asked.

"I think there is inadequacy of the law on this point. It is a grey area which the legislature and the relevant authority must look at seriously."

On the facts of the case, the judge that it was within the Syariah court's jurisdiction to decide whether Mohan Singh, also known as Mohammad Hazzerry Shah Mohan Abdullah, was a Muslim based on his conversion certificate dated Aug 8, 1992.

Mohan married a Sarawakian, Alice Ajan, in 1997 and they have a daughter. They separated in 1999.

"The existence of the certificate is sufficient proof that the deceased had converted to Islam in 1992 and hence was a Muslim.

"Therefore, it is the Syariah court that shall have the jurisdiction to determine whether he was still a Muslim at the time of his death."

She also rejected a request for a stay of her decision pending an appeal by Mohan Singh's family.

In Malaysia, about 100,000 Sikhs are part of the Indian diaspora of two million.