By Asia Samachar Team | MALAYSIA |
The Muslim burial is not the main bone of contention in the purported Penang conversion case of kichen helper Surinder Kaur who died when apparently hit by her boyfriend.
In fact, the Sikh community should not be demanding for the exhumation of the 37 year-old’s body who died on 30 March, and was subsequently given a Muslim burial upon the request of her mother and and her other children who have converted to Islam many years ago.
This is one opinion. Some quarters may beg to differ with this opinion.
However, the more pertinent issue – and this impacts all Malaysians, and not just Sikhs alone – is the letter issued by the Penang Mufti which declared Surinder a Muslim convert despite the lack of official documentation and possibly lack of adherence to the due to process.
When contacted, Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) Jagir Singh said that ordinarily the body of a Sikh upon death should be cremated.
“But where facts show otherwise then different consideration may apply. In Surinder’s case, the mother and family who have all converted to Islam, stated that Surinder before death had indicated an Islamic burial if anything happened to her.
“The mother and family want an Islamic burial for her and in these circumstance the family’s wishes should be respected. In Sikhism the body is equated to consist of five elements and after death the body becomes dust,” Jagir told Asia Samachar.
Jagir is also a key representative at the interfaith outfit Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).
He noted that Article 11 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution gives to every person a right to profess and practise his religion. “Profess” would include what the person himself has said about his choice of religion and “practise” would include religion followed before his/her death.
“Here the family’s evidence would be vital to ascertain the religion practised by deceased before death,” he said.
LETTER FROM PENANG MUFTI
In a press conference earlier, a representative of a Sikh organisation had suggested that Surinder’s body should be exhumed and given a Sikh cremation. It is understood that Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (Penang) has since dropped the request, but is instead focusing on the mufti’s conversion declaration.
The Muslim authorities had given Surinder a Muslim burial on the strength of a letter from Penang mufti Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor to the Penang Islamic affairs department known as the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Agama Islam Negeri Penang (JHEAIPP).
It stated that Surinder’s conversion to Islam was based on a claim by her brother, Imran Khan Mohamad Qurban Ali. He had also made a police report stating that his younger sister had converted to Islam.
In an article, Free Malaysia Today had quoted Penang Islamic Department director Zulkifli Long as saying that Surinder’s name was not listed in the state’s converts register.
In interviews with newspapers, Surinder’s mother, Nazirah Bibi @ Kuldip Kaur, had warned outsiders to leave her late daughter’s body alone in the Muslim cemetery, saying that she will not allow any parties to interfere and try to exhume her daughter’s body.
PENANG CONVERSION LAW
In an earlier statement, MGC had raised the issue of the legality of the Surinder’s purported conversion.
Under the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Penang) Enactment 2004, a person to be converted must be of “sound mind” and was capable of reciting the “Kalimah Sahadah”. Further a conversion certificate must be issued by the Penang Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JAIPP) and the name entered into the Registry of converts, according to MGC.
“JAIPP has issued statement that Surinder Kaur’s name does not appear in the records. Thus, the question arises how did the Penang State Mufti decide that Surinder was a Muslim and issued the state letter.
“MGC is questioning the power of the State Mufti to have issued such a letter, as the power to decide on conversion is with JAIPP. Thus the action of State Mufti may set a dangerous precedent where the Mufti without enquiring into the legality of conversion can unilaterally decide on the religion status of a descent without ensuring that the conversion was legally done,” said Jagir.
However, Asia Samachar noted that Section 111 (1) has this to say on the registration of mualafs: “A person who has converted to the religion of Islam may apply to the Registrar in the prescribed form for registration as a mualaf.”
Section 108 describes who is a mualaf. It states: “A person is converted to the religion of Islam and becomes a Muslim as soon as he finished uttering the two clauses of the Affirmation of Faith provided that the requirements of section 107 are fulfilled; and that person shall thereupon be referred to as a mualaf.”
MGC: An Enquiry needed into the purported conversion of Surinder Kaur (Asia Samachar, 4 April 2019)
Sikh group meets Penang mufti officials, mother says daughter has recited kalimah syahadah (Asia Samachar, 3 April 2019)
Did she convert to Islam? (Asia Samachar, 2 April 2019)
Penang woman seriously injured in helmet attack by motorcyclist dies – NST (Asia Samachar, 1 April 2019)
ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |