A marital spat over religion cost one Malaysian Hindu woman her baby. Her husband insisted his spouse become a Muslim; when she refused, he grabbed their 11-month-old daughter and disappeared. That was more than five years ago. Though a civil court granted the mother custody, she never saw her child again, because her legal victory was canceled out by the father gaining custody in an Islamic (Sharia) court. As reported by the Associated Press,
Police have been unwilling to enforce the civil court’s decision.
… [a] divided legal system, where majority Muslims use Sharia courts for religious and family issues such as conversion, divorce and death. The other 40 percent of the country — mainly Christians, Buddhists and Hindus — use a secular legal system inherited from the Southeast Asian country’s British colonial rulers.
Critics accuse the ethnic Malay Muslim-dominated government of doing too little to resolve problems when those legal systems collide. The government has become increasingly reliant on support from Islamist and right-wing pressure groups as other constituencies flock to the opposition.
In Malaysia, everyone is equal. It’s just that some are more equal than others.
Some lawyers and legal experts say spouses in especially bitter custody battles sometimes convert to Islam to gain an upper hand. A Muslim with a non-Muslim spouse who seeks custody from the Sharia court is almost certain to win because the spouse has no standing. … [A] cabinet decision in 2009 to allow minors to be converted only with both parents’ consent has yet to be made legally binding.
This is what happens when a religious majority doesn’t stop at simply worshipping, but seeks to legislate and impose its will as well.
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