Candlelight vigil for ethnic Indian woman


Kuala Lumpur : Over 500 people from different communities held a candlelight vigil here to protest against the detention of an ethnic Indian woman for religious counselling in an Islamic rehabilitation centre.

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Protestors Wednesday lit candles of hope for religious freedom and the right to love, carrying banners that said "Secular is not anti-religion" and "Stop breaking up families", Asia News reported.

M. Revathi was born to an Indian Hindu family, which converted to Islam before she was born. Though Revathi was given a Muslim name – Siti Fatimah – she claims she was raised as a Hindu by her grandmother and had changed her name in 2001.

Revathi married Suresh Veerappan, a Hindu, in 2004 according to Hindu rites. The Sharia court, however, did not register their marriage because Suresh would have had to convert to Islam first. The couple, who have a baby, protested the move.

Revathi's official documents say she is a Muslim because Malaysians who are born as Muslims cannot legally convert.

In January, the 29-year-old woman was taken to a rehabilitation centre in central Malaysia where she is currently being held for religious counselling.

The vigil drew Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and members of other minority groups. Officials from the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) were also present.

"We are all here hopeful that the state may recognise and respect religious freedom as enshrined in the constitution," said Meera Samanther, president of the Women's Aid Organisation.

Ethnic Indians form about eight percent of Malaysia's 26 million people and a majority of them are Hindus. Some are Christians, Muslims and Sikhs.

Activists say an increasing number of similar cases have strained ethnic relations in this multicultural nation that has enjoyed racial peace for years.