STORIES that dominated the Tamil press for the week of 13 to 19 April 2009 continued to be about the conversion of children to Islam without a parent’s consent and a mother’s fight for these children.
The Tamil press also looked at the neverending cycle of violence in the Indian Malaysian community.
The drama behind the forced conversion of an 11-month-old breastfeeding baby continues to be played out in the Tamil papers. The situation has taken another dramatic twist. The Tamil papers reported that the father has also converted his two other children, aged 11 and 12. What is shocking is that the conversion was done without the children being present — the father was reported to have converted his children with just their birth certificates.
Sivanesan (Source: epla.perak.
gov.my) Tamil Nesan was the first to report on the new developments of the case when it ran a story on 15 April titled The conversion of children: Sivanesan urges MIC and other parties to fight for rights. A Sivanesan, the state assemblyperson for Sungkai, urged political parties such as the MIC and DAP to work with religious organisations to fight for the rights of parents whose children are converted to another religion without their permission.
In Perak, there have been two reported cases involving the conversion of children without the knowledge of one parent. M Indira Gandhi’s baby was forcefully taken away from her and converted to Islam; while T Tharmakanoo’s two children were converted to Islam by his estranged wife.
“The Islamic religious department should not allow the conversion of children without the permission of both parents,” Sivanesan said at a press conference at the DAP headquarters in Ipoh. Tamil Nesan noted that officials from the Pakatan Rakyat (PR)’s Islamic affairs section were present at the press conference.
“When such incidents happened before, the government gave assurances that the matter would be looked into. However, because nothing has been done yet, such forced conversions are still happening and causing a lot of hurt and resentment among the people.”
It was at this press conference that Sivanesan revealed he had received a report that Indira Gandhi’s two older children had also been converted to Islam.
Tamil Nesan had another lead story on the issue the next day on 16 April. The report, titled Complaints on the conversion of children; ministry orders immediate attention, highlighted the effort by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to look into the matter after it was brought to the prime minister’s attention.
Muhyiddin (Pic courtesy of theSun) Tamil Nesan quoted Muhyiddin as saying he had directed the ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department — Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon and Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom — and Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S Subramaniam to investigate the matter thoroughly.
In the report A political solution needed to solve the conversion issue in Tamil Nesan, Sivanesan urged the government to work out a political solution for this thorny issue as the courts were unable to solve it. He said because of amendments to Article 121A of the Federal Constitution, civil courts did not have the jurisdiction to listen to any matter relating to Islam.
“The law should be fair to everybody. However, due to this amendment, non-Muslims who face conversion issues are left in a limbo,” he said.
Mother fights back
The mother of the three converted children has started legal action in order to get her children back as Hindus.
Indira Gandhi’s story was front page news on two days in Makkal Osai. The first on 16 April was headlined My children should be returned to me as Hindus, Indira Gandhi appeals. In that report, she said she had no objections to her husband becoming a Muslim, but she wanted her three children back as Hindus. “This is a mother’s fight for her rights and I will not back down,” she said.
On 18 April, Makkal Osai ran another story on Indra Gandhi under the headline The conversion of three children by husband: I will appeal to the PM, decides housewife Indira Gandhi. In this interview, she revealed her reasons for wanting to see Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. “Our PM has announced his 1Malaysia plan. But I am faced with this tough situation. I want to tell him about this … I am not against Islam and neither am I blaming anyone. But I just want to ask why such a situation should happen to non-Muslims like me?” she asked tearfully.
(Pic by Tigerzeye @ Flickr)She also revealed that the police never took any action despite her lodging numerous reports against her husband for his abusive ways. Having lost her baby to her husband, she now lives in fear of losing her two other converted children to the religious authorities. She accused her husband of resorting to such tactics for financial reasons.
Makkal Osai also got a scoop when it managed to contact the husband, Pathmanathan, known by his Muslim name of Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah, to get his side of the story. He denied all his wife’s charges and said he had never physically hurt her. “I love my wife dearly. I want her to follow me [into my religion].”
When asked why he converted his children without his wife’s permission, he replied, “Whether a person is a Hindu, Christian or Muslim, a child has to follow the religion of the father. This is not a political issue. This is my family matter. I do not want to embarrass my wife.”
The paper gave Indira Gandhi the last word. “My children do not want to go to their father. They want to stay with me. Because of the problems that I am facing now, I am concerned about their upbringing. Even if, by chance, I am given physical custody of my children, will I be able to bring them up as Hindus?”
Not a day goes by without the report of a murder of an Indian Malaysian youth in the Tamil papers. Of the numerous murders reported during the week, one in particular hogged the headlines in all three papers.
The headline of Malaysia Nanban on 17 April read Son murdered: mother dies of shock. K Loganathan was slashed to death by a parang-wielding gang of four men. He was sent to the hospital but he died shortly after. His mother, upon hearing about his death, had a heart attack and died. The funeral for both was held on the same day.
Tamil Nesan‘s editorial on 16 April, titled The culture of violence has to stop, touched on this cycle of violence within the community. “What’s happened to the Indian [Malaysian] youths? Why are they acting so irresponsibly? For a community that is striving to better itself economically and through education, such violence, often stemming from one’s desire for revenge, is leading our community to a terrible future. The Indian [Malaysian] youths should realise this.”
The paper urged the youths to consider the repercussions of their actions on their families and the community. It also warned the youths against being someone else’s hired thugs.
“Associations working with Indian [Malaysian] youths should arrange for a nationwide road tour of lectures against this culture of violence,” the paper advised.