When M. Indira Gandh refused to convert to Islam upon her husband’s request, he took their 11-month-old daughter and sped off away on his motorcycle. Gandhi hasn’t seen her daughter since then, which was more than 5 years ago.
Gandhi, a devout Hindu, won custody in a Malaysian court. But her husband’s trial in an Islamic court won him custody as well. Since Gandhi is not a Muslim, she was not called into the court to even stand a fair trial.
Gandhi’s story is only one of many that show the conflicted issues of a divided legal system in which the majority Muslim are able to use Sharia courts for family and religious issues. The other 40 percent of the population, which is comprised of Christians, Buddhists and Hindus, use the secular legal system that was adopted from Malaysia’s British colonial rulers
Gandhi’s lawyer, M. Kulasegaran, is an opposition lawmaker who works on cases similar to Gandhi’s in which conflicts arise from the divided legal system. In 2007, the top civil court allowed a Muslim father to convert his children without the mother’s consent. The government has been working to resolve issues surrounding legal conversions for quite some time. But a 2009 Cabinet decision that allows minors to be converted with both parents’ consent has yet to become legally binding.
The father of Gandhi’s child, Muhammad Riduan Abdullah, received temporary custody for all three children after abducting their daughter Diksa. Gandhi has tried to contact Riduan, but after she refused to convert again, he stopped replying to her.
Fox News has reported that aid from local law enforcement is not present in custody battles such as these. National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar has refused to follow court orders by returning Diksa to her mother. Bakar has been quoted by local medias saying that the police are sandwiched between two legal systems and proposed that children caught in custody tussles be placed in welfare homes.
Gandhi has not given up hope on being reunited with her daughter and told the Associated Press, "Whether she is a Muslim or not, it doesn't matter. She is still my daughter. All I want is to hold and embrace her. I have missed many precious moments with her. I will fight until I get my child back."
Sources: Fox News, Associated Press / Photo Credit: Associated Press