Silent Protest -- In Solidarity with Revathi

"When the clock strikes nine, silently leave the area and clear litter", members of the organisers for the vigil politely reminded the crowd by word of mouth. About 200 people from all walks of life, race and religion gathered at the Dataran Merdeka flagpole with candles lit to stand in solidarity with Revathi -- to communicate freedom.

Revathi is in detention for rehabilitation at Ulu Yam, Selangor for choosing to renounce Islam as her religion. In a country that boasts its 50 years of independence, the nation lives with a half-lit conviction that the government values the nation's foundational constitution and the people's fundamental rights. In the case of Revathi (and Lina Joy, Murthi and Subashini, among the prominent ones), the federal constitution is denied of its authority to proclaim the freedom of religion.

Tonight was my first effort in acting out what I believe about freedom of religion. I know in my heart and mind that we are all equal and should be given the freedom to make choices for ourselves. Especially in the area of choosing one's faith. Malaysia cannot be run in contradiction. The burning candles may not move or change policies, but the hands holding it are attached to hearts and voices that demand fairness and humility in governing the country. The least we could do is communicate it.

Summary of Revathi's case:

Revathi, an ethnic Indian woman, has been held in a rehabilitation center run by Islamic authorities since January 2007 because she wants the State to acknowledge she is a Hindu and not a Muslim.

Revathi was born to Indian parents who had converted to Islam before her birth. She claims she was raised by her grandmother as a Hindu. She and Suresh were married according to Hindu rites in March 2004. Revathi was advised by the Malacca Islamic Religious Department to make an application at the Malacca Syariah High Court to confirm her status as a Hindu. She did as she was told.

However, the Syariah Court ordered her detained in a rehabilitation centre in Ulu Yam, Selangor under Melaka's Syariah criminal laws for 100 days. This detention was extended in Revathi's absence for a further 80 days supposedly because she had not "repented". In the meanwhile, Revathi's Muslim mother obtained a Syariah Court order granting her custody of Revathi and Suresh's 15 month old baby. That order was enforced on Suresh's Hindu family with the assistance of the police.

The family is now torn apart - with the mother in detention, the child with the grandparents and the father in limbo without his family.


Popular Posts