Malaysia court halts Islamic burial in religious row
5 Jan 2008
A Malaysian court gave an ethnic Chinese man a temporary order to prevent an Islamic affairs council from taking his wife's body for burial, in a dispute over whether she converted to Islam, a newspaper reported on Saturday.
The row over the body of 53-year old Mong Sau Lan is the latest in a series of racial and religious incidents that could hurt support for the government ahead of expected snap elections in the coming months.
In the burial matter, snooker centre manager Ngiam Tee Kong was informed by a hospital which had his wife's remains that he could claim the body to perform Christian rituals but must hand it over to the Islamic council for a Muslim burial.
The 52-year old Ngiam said he had received a letter informing him that his wife had converted to Islam and this had been authorised by a religious affairs official, according to the report published in the Star newspaper.
But Ngiam said his wife was a Christian before her death on Dec. 30, and asked that her body be handed to him as the legal husband.
The court has set Jan. 18 to hear the application.
Disputes over religious conversions and complaints about the authorities' demolition of churches and Hindu temples have fuelled worries about a rise in hardline Islam in mostly Muslim Malaysia.
Politically dominant ethnic Malay Muslims form about 60 percent of the population of roughly 26 million, while the ethnic Indian and Chinese minorities include Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.