by V. Anbalagan, Assistant News Editor
The Malaysian Insider
4 June 2014
For the last seven years, Zarinah Abdul Majid had been making frequent trips to the Shariah Court and the National Registration Department (NRD) hoping to remove the word “Islam” from her identity card, as she is not a practising Muslim.
She said she spent thousands of ringgit hiring lawyers to help but it was all in vain.
Zarinah then took a bold step – she decided she was going to marry the man of her dreams, a Hindu – and that too, in a temple on Sunday.
“I was not afraid any more. I was fed up and could not wait any longer. I am getting old and I want a family of my own,” she told The Malaysian Insider, speaking in Tamil.
On Sunday, the 32-year-old factory worker had the “thali” tied around the neck by her boyfriend of seven years, in a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony in a temple in Petaling Jaya.
She had invited 400 guests and spent more than RM30,000 on the ceremony and the reception that followed.
But the reception did not go as planned as enforcement officers from the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), accompanied by policemen, took her away to question her about her religious status.
“Most of my guests were shocked and obviously, they left without eating. It was so embarrassing and painful,” she told The Malaysian Insider.
The Malaysian Hindu Sangam, Bar Council, Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) and civil society condemned Jais and the police for “trespassing” into the temple and disrupting the ceremony.
Zarinah was released later but she told The Malaysian Insider that she was not backing down.
“Although I carry a Muslim name, I am a practising Hindu. I also follow the customs and culture strictly,” she said in a telephone interview.
Zarinah said her parents who were Hindus were married in 1980. The father was known as S. Mahendran and mother, S. Vasandamma.
“Later, my father was converted to Islam by a relative and he carried the Muslim name, Abdul Majid,” she said.
Zarinah said her mother remained a Hindu.
She said as a result, she and three other siblings were identified as Muslims in their birth certificates and MyKad.
Zarinah said after the birth of her brother in 1990, their father left the home and never returned.
“My mother did not realise that we were Muslims because she is illiterate. But the family only practised the Hindu faith,” said Zarinah, who lived with her family in Sungai Way.
Zarinah said over the last 20 years, the family members had seen many lawyers to find a solution to their problem but it turned out to be an exercise in futility.
“We would have spent about RM20,000 in legal fees alone but nothing has changed. On paper, we are still Muslims,” she said, sounding disappointed.
Zarinah said she met her husband seven years ago and made another attempt to get out of this quagmire.
From the little knowledge she gained from the lawyers she had met and advice from friends, Zarinah went to the Shariah Court to get an order to renounce the faith.
“I was told that the court has to issue a certificate for NRD to delete the word Islam in the identity card,” she said.
“All I can say was that I was given the run around by the officials and it was frustrating at times.”
Zarinah said she could not register her marriage under civil law for as long the word “Muslim” appeared in the MyKad.
She finally decided to go through the traditional wedding as “age was catching up and I want have a family”.
“My husband managed to tie the ‘thali’ to signify that we are married,” said Zarinah who was dressed in a saree before she was taken away by Jais officials to Shah Alam for questioning.
She was freed about 2pm after her statement was recorded.
Zarinah said her guests were shocked.
“Even my Muslims friends privately confided that what happened in the temple was uncalled for as Jais officials could have called me in for questioning later.”
Zarinah said she knew the culprit who tipped off the authorities about the marriage ceremony but added it could be a blessing in disguise.
“All this while, I was fighting a losing battle to exert my rights which many people did not know. I hope justice will now be done since my problem has now gone public.”
I spent so much money and time working on this problem and now they are telling me to do the same thing.
Meanwhile, Jais had denied raiding or disrupting Zarinah’s wedding ceremony.
Deputy director-general of Jais Ahmad Zaki Arshad said they were only investigating complaints from the public and took a statement from the bride to ascertain her religious status.
He said the department had followed proper procedures.
“This was not a raid or an operation. We only conducted routine checks and asked the IC holder whether she is a Muslim,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Zarinah said Jais told her to change her name and religion to avoid being dragged to court for apostasy.
“But that was what I was trying to do for years. I spent so much money and time working on this problem and now they are telling me to do the same thing.”
Zarinah said there was a possibility that she could be charged with insulting Islam if the problem was not solved quickly. – June 4, 2014.