Convert at Seven

November 19th, 2009 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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This is a serious allegation indeed. We hope its not true, probably some mix-up, but its not impossible to happen. Converted at an age of seven without the parent or guardian involved. I wonder if the religious department will arrest or fine her for apostasy. Logically shouldn’t be, but you never know… this is after all Bolehland.

From Malaysiakini:

A mother of two claims that she was unwittingly converted to Islam by state religious authorities as a child while at a welfare home in Kepala Batas, Penang.

S Banggarma, whose Muslim name is Siti Hasnah Vangarama Abdullah, said she discovered this when seeking to register her marriage in 2000.

NONEAccording to the housewife, she was converted to Islam in 1989, when she was seven years old. 

Banggarama has sought the help of PKR Kedah Youth deputy chief and lawyer Gooi Hsiao Leung and the party’s Kedah Indian affairs bureau deputy chief R Kumaraguru Naidu.

Prior to getting married to her fisherman husband S Sockalingam, the 27-year-old woman said she had to obtain her MyKad from the National Registration Department (NRD) in Ipoh. 

Her marriage took place in Tanjung Piandang, Perak.

Banggarma had apparently fled from the Rumah Kanak-Kanak Taman Bakti when she was 16 together with several inmates without taking any of her identity documents.

“I was shocked when the NRD officers told me that I’m a Muslim convert by the name of Siti Hasnah. I was issued a MyKad with that name,” she told a press conference at Gooi’s office in Georgetown this afternoon. 

She said due to her Muslim name, she could not register her marriage to Sockalingam, which was conducted according to Hindu rites. She was also unable to register her husband’s name as the father in her children’s birth certificates.

Birth cert states ‘Hindu’

According to Banggarma, after being told about her conversion, she went back to the welfare home to retrieve her identity documents.

NONEAt the home, an officer handed over her birth certificate which stipulated that she was a born Hindu on Aug 13, 1982.

The certificate revealed that she was born in Keratong, Pahang to plantation worker B Subramaniam and Latchumy Ramadu.

The welfare home officer also handed over a certificate disclosing her conversion in 1989.

NONEShe was apparently converted to Islam before a religious officer representing the state Islamic council and department. The document showed her signature ‘Hasnah’ on the left side bottom corner.

However, Banggarma could not recall the incident and claimed that she was living as a Hindu while she was at the welfare home.

“I have always been a practicing Hindu,” she told reporters.

However, she admitted that she had attended Islamic prayer sessions with other inmates. “I supposed I just followed the crowd,” she said.

Due to the conversion, Banggarma had difficulties in registering the birth of her two children – Kanagaraj, eight, and Hisyanthini, two – until last year.

“I finally managed to obtain birth certificates for my Hindu children through legal help. I also tried to change my name back to my original Hindu name in my MyKad twice. But my attempts were unsuccessful,” she said.

Islamic authorities to investigate

Meanwhile, Gooi said he would bring up the issue with the state Islamic authorities to find a solution to end her Banggarma’s predicament.

“We would take the matter to court if we have to,” he said.

Gooi also chided the officers who converted Banggarma for being “irresponsible” and the welfare home for neglecting its duty.

“A welfare home’s primary objective is to take care of the children, not convert them. Only an irresponsible person would have converted a seven-year-old,” he said.

Contacted later, Penang Islamic Religious Affairs Council president Shabudin Yahaya said he would push for an investigation into the case.

“It happened a long time ago. We have to check our past records. It would take time,” he said.

State executive councillor in charge of Islamic affairs Abdul Malik Kassim however declined to comment on the case since it was a legal issue.

‘My husband and kids are all I have’

During the press conference, Banggarma also revealed that she was brought to the welfare home together with two of her elder brothers and a younger sister. 

“I was apparently found sleeping with my siblings on the roadside in Kepala Batas when the welfare officers took us to the home,” she recalled.

NONEHowever, once they were enrolled into the welfare home, the siblings were separated and she never met them again.

Banggarma said her mother died when she was very young and her father had abandoned her and her siblings soon after.

She said her father had visited her at the welfare home only once when she 13.

Banggarma added that she had three more older siblings who went missing before she was placed in the welfare home.

“My husband and my children are all I have. They are the world to me,” she said.


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