Malaysia Top Court Hears Landmark Religious Dispute

May 3, 2010

Author: Razak Ahmad

Source: Reuters

Malaysia's highest court began proceedings on Monday on a landmark inter-religious child custody dispute whose outcome could further raise political tension in this mainly Muslim country.

The Federal Court heard objections by lawyers representing an ethnic Indian couple fighting each other for custody of their two children and adjourned for two weeks before hearing the case.

A Hindu woman, Shamala Sathiyaseelan, won temporary custody of her two children in 2004 following her husband's conversion to Islam. She is seeking full custody and a declaration that it is illegal under Malaysia's constitution for a parent to convert a minor to Islam without the other's consent.

Malaysia's dual-track legal system where Muslims fall under Islamic family laws while non-Muslims come under civil laws has led to overlaps and unresolved religious disputes that have fuelled minority unhappiness and raised political tensions.