Thursday, December 30, 2010

MyKad burden for children of Hindu-Muslim parentage

The name on the identity card (MyKad) reads Ravichandran a/l Muniandy*. For the 17 years of his life, this gangly teenager has lived as a Hindu, and yet his MyKad states that he is a Muslim.

But at least he has a MyKad - received three years after he first applied for it, and only because his father, Muniandy, had made a scene at the National Registration Department (NRD) in Putrajaya.

NONE"We applied when he was 13, but even then the registration officer there tried to reject the application, saying that his mother's name is Malay so my son's name must be changed to a Malay name too. I refused, so they told me to go to Putrajaya," Muniandy said.

The second application was lodged with the boy's name, Ravichandran a/l Muniandy, as per his birth certificate, but nothing came out of it, and the boy was forced to sit his PMR with only the application slip.

"We went to the (NRD) branch several times and were told the card never arrived, so I went to Putrajaya, and they made us submit another application, again with a Malay name," he said.

After an altercation with the NRD officers, both at the counter and at the legal department, Muniandy managed to convince them into retaining his son's name as per his birth certificate.

"But the officer told me that they could not guarantee that his religion on the card will not be Islam," he said.

Ravichandran's sister Saraswathy is 15 years old and still awaiting her MyKad. If she is as 'lucky' as her brother, she will receive hers in time for the SPM examination, but her case might be more complicated.

Assaulted and threatened into converting to Islam

Born during a tumultuous period in her parents' life, her birth certificate was claimed by officials to be missing and the replacement states that Sarawasthy's religion and that of her parents is Islam.

Her name on the birth certificate is 'Sarawaswathy binti Kamal Shah' - the name religious officials forced onto her father.

Her mother Laila, a Muslim, was pregnant with her when religious department officials broke into their home after midnight to conduct a raid, acting on a tip-off.

"They broke open the front door and wiped the 'pottu' off my wife's forehead. We were so afraid - they had surrounded the house," said Muniandy, tears welling up in his eyes.

That was not the only time - after the first incident, the family absconded only to be found out again when Muniandy insisted in having his and his daughter's names on the birth certificate reflect their Hindu faith.

"We were raided again, I was beaten up. They took my wife and children away and told me to go to the religious department to 'negotiate'.

"They put me in a tiny room and put on (the azan) on loudspeaker," he said, of the many things done to him in an effort to make him convert to Islam.

But what sounded like brainwashing sessions masked as 'counselling' failed, and Muniandy survived the ordeal by agreeing to change his name to a Muslim name on his identity card, albeit not converting.

A white-collared worker, Muniandy said that almost two decades ago, he was advised by an Islamic welfare organisation that if he did not have faith, then he should not convert.

The organisation provided him with a card which states a Muslim name, adopted without converting, and with this the couple registered their marriage and lived as Hindus.

Muniandy never changed his name to the Muslim one at the NRD.

NRD officers added 'Muslim elements'

"It was a difficult time (after the raids). My photo was published all over the country and people harassed me at my workplace, so I lost my job," said Muniandy, who now has five children, with the youngest in primary school.

The family has had to live in fear of both religious persecution from officials and vigilantes, moving house at least five times in the past 20 years, sometimes after threats from parang-wielding Muslims.

For the past few years, life has been relatively quiet. Muniandy now has an understanding employer, and the principals of the national schools which the children attend have also registered the children as non-Muslim after the parents explained the situation.

But the MyKad issue remains for Saraswathy, who was told to reapply with a Muslim name, a problem that is likely to recur for her younger siblings.

The couple's other daughter's birth certificate also carries a Muslim name but the two younger boys' birth certificates have neither the religion of their parents nor the term 'bin' (to denote that they are Muslims).

"In my application for my (second daughter's) birth certificate, her name was (Shantini) a/p Muniandy, but her name is printed as Shantini binti Kamal Shah," he said.

Another son has the name 'Shah' added as a middle name by the NRD officer who claimed that he should have a 'Muslim element' in his name.

Other NRD officers have also blocked Muniandy from dropping the 'Kamal Shah' alias from his identity card, even though his MyKad states that he is Hindu, for unclear reasons.

"This NRD officers insist that we must all have Muslim names, Malay names. But how would they know what our faith is? I have nothing against Islam, but I don't want to desecrate Islam by taking a Muslim name or declaring myself Muslim but living as a Hindu," he said.

No freedom of religion

What Muniandy essentially wants is to raise his children as he sees fit, and for his children to be provided identity cards to reflect what they really are.

But for some, this seemingly harmless request would amount to heresy, and that removing the word 'Islam' from his children's MyKad is actually a case of apostasy.

With cases like Muslim apostate to Christianity Lina Joy meeting a dead end, and a happy ending on Malaysian shores remaining unlikely, this is precisely why Muniandy is fighting so hard to obtain identity cards for his children.

"This is so that they can sit for their exams and then later, hopefully, study abroad and live there... there is no freedom of religion here," he said.

Lina was not the first and only person to renounce Islam in Malaysia. Likewise, the story of Muniandy and Laila is in no way unique.

Quietly, all around Malaysia, many Muslims enter into marriages with non-Muslims, without their spouses converting.

Such choices made by consenting adults, however, have deeper repercussions for children born into such marriages.

Assumed to be Muslim by virtue of one parent's religion by seemingly well-meaning NRD officers, these children later face lengthy legal battles to renounce a faith they know nothing about.


seals: Wanna vote for BN government again ? Think about it.....

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