Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hindu woman and Islamic Council in insurance row

Jan 31, 2008

$25,000 insurance payout denied to mum even though Muslim son named her as beneficiary
KUALA LUMPUR - A HINDU woman has spurned an offer by Malaysia's Islamic authorities to settle a dispute over her dead Muslim son's insurance policy in a case that highlights growing conflicts over religious rights.

The Federal Territory Islamic Council offered on Tuesday to give Mrs Rukumony Muthiah two-thirds of the RM56,300 (S$25,000) proceeds from her son's insurance policy, Mrs Rukumony's lawyer Darshan Singh Khaira said yesterday.

Mrs Rukumony's army ranger son, a Muslim convert, had died in 2000. In his insurance policy, Mr Ragu Ellaiappan - whose Muslim name was Mohamed Redzuan Abdullah - had named Mrs Rukumony as his beneficiary, Mr Darshan said.

But the Islamic authorities argued in court that under the country's religious laws for Muslims, a non-Muslim cannot claim inheritance from a Muslim, he said.

'Our federal Constitution guarantees equality, so how can you say a non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim, but a Muslim can inherit from a non-Muslim?' Mr Darshan asked.

The council's lawyers made the offer in the High Court in Penang on Tuesday, but Mr Darshan said it was a 'fairy-tale offer' that was unacceptable.

Mrs Rukumony, a 61-year-old Indian widow, is willing to settle for 80 per cent of the total sum, he said. The court is scheduled to hear the case on March 14.

Malaysia's non-Muslim minorities say a spate of court cases in recent years, involving disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims, has usually ended with the Muslim side winning.

The legal conflicts have strained multiracial ties in Malaysia.

The Rukumony case is not the first one involving inheritance rights of a non-Muslim family following the death of a Muslim family member.

In September 2004, a family of a Chinese fireman in Malacca who had converted to Islam lost their inheritance after he died. His estate was placed under the administration of the state's Islamic council.

After political intervention, half of the estate was returned to the family.

In another closely watched case, a Chinese man is battling the authorities who took away the body of his father after saying he had embraced Islam before he died.

He wants the court to declare that his father was a Buddhist.

Mr Gan Hok Ming, a 46-year-old computer technician, said yesterday that non-Muslims were getting a raw deal.

'What choice do we have? We are very unsatisfied. There should be a more transparent system, especially on Muslim conversions,' he said from his home in Negeri Sembilan.

His father Gan Eng Gor, 74, had died on Jan 20 and was buried as a Muslim after an Islamic court ruled that he converted to Islam last year.

But the family insisted that Mr Gan was a Buddhist up to the day he died.


[Comment: The other shoe has dropped. It is now clear why one son who converted to Islam would then claim that his bedridden, paralysed father has converted to Islam before he died. Money is a powerful force for conversion.]

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