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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Malay doctor defies Jais, puts children under church care

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 — A Malay doctor facing marital problems has refused to commit his children to the care of Muslim organisations preferring instead to send them to a church in Petaling Jaya, in the latest touchy subject of Muslims turning to Christians for help in the country.

The Metro Ahad tabloid, the Sunday edition of Harian Metro, reported today a spokesman from the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) as saying that the unnamed doctor has committed an offence.

The Jais official said section 35 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Enactment 1995 states that it is an offence to sell, give or surrender the care of one’s children to a non-Muslim, which is punishable by imprisonment of up to three years, a fine not more than RM5,000, or both.

The pro-government Malay tabloid’s report today follows a slew of reports by other pro-Umno newspapers in the past weeks on Christians’ alleged attempts to convert Muslims. Proselytising Muslims is an offence in Malaysia.

A tuition centre accused of trying to convert Muslim schoolchildren to Christianity was shut down after Umno-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia highlighted the allegations last Wednesday.

Berita Harian and Harian Metro have also reported allegations that Christian organisations are secretly trying to convert impoverished Muslims through welfare aid. Both newspapers are part of the Umno-linked media giant, Media Prima Bhd.

Christian churches have demanded evidence behind such claims.

The reports came after Jais raided a dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in Petaling Jaya on August 3.

The agency was purportedly acting on a complaint that Muslims were spotted among those at the dinner, and was said to have found proof later that Christians were attempting to convert them during the function.

Metro Ahad quoted today Juhaidi Yean Abdullah, the head of Muslim welfare body Baitul Fiqh, as saying that the unnamed church — which was taking care of the children — had asked the welfare home to take them.

“But their father has refused to do so, saying that he did not want his children to be handed over to other people,” said Juhaidi.

The daily said the children of the doctor, who was facing marital problems, were aged between five and 15 years.

Malaysian Syariah Lawyers Association president Mohamad Isa Ralip told Metro Ahad that Baitul Fiqh could apply for custody from the Syariah Court.

“Even though the children are still under the custody of their parents, if there are issues involving custody rights like what is happening now, that can be set aside,” said Mohamad Isa.

“In this matter, I praise the pastor for trying to send the children to Baitul Fiqh. This is because he knows religious sensitivities and that Muslims should have custody of the children,” added the lawyer.