Malaysia court backs Islamic officials in ‘bodysnatch’ case
Agence France-Presse – 7/6/2009 4:27 AM GMT
Malaysia’s high court has ruled that a Sikh man converted to Islam before his death, over the objections of his family who are demanding the return of his body, his lawyer said Monday.
In the latest “bodysnatching” case in predominantly Muslim Malaysia, the court backed Islamic authorities who said that Mohan Singh, a 41-year-old film director who died of a heart attack last month, was a Muslim.
“The family is very disappointed with the ruling as they wanted to get his body and cremate him under Sikh rites, but it was expected and we are now rushing to appeal,” family lawyer Rajesh Kumar told AFP.
“We are hoping that the family will be allowed to appeal but the Muslim authorities now have custody of the body and they are expected to rush a Muslim burial by today, which will make the situation worse,” he said.
Kumar said that presiding high court judge Rosnaini Saub had refused to grant a stay order on the ruling, which would have allowed the body to be kept at a hospital morgue pending the appeal.
“This makes it very hard because if we win on appeal, it would be difficult to exhume the body from a Muslim graveyard as that would upset Muslims.”
Kumar said Islamic authorities claimed that Mohan, who had directed some local films, converted to Islam in 1992, although Kumar’s family say he was a practising Sikh when he died and his religion was marked on his identity card.
Conversion rows are common in Muslim-majority Malaysia, and wrangles between relatives and Islamic authorities over the remains of people whose religion is disputed have helped raise ethnic tensions.
The issue has stoked fears of the “Islamisation” of the multicultural country, which is also home to large ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.