Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Zulhadi Omar/Eddie Teyo - was he actually 'born' Muslim?

When it rains, it pours, doesn't it?

The Lina Joy case was just decided, Subashini's case is not settled yet, the Sharmala, Moorthy and Rayappan cases fresh in our minds... and already we have another religious firecracker brewing.

While Zulhadi/Eddie and Lina Joy are both born-Muslims, the former was actually not... ummm, "born" correctly. DNA evidence proves that he was given to the wrong family (a Muslim one, instead of his non-Muslim biological one) at birth.

So the question is: Does a mistaken identity (at birth) void one's religious status?

The Islamists will argue that he was (rightly or wrongly) under the legal custody of Muslim birth parents at that time, which rightfully makes him a Muslim.

Zulhadi/Eddie will argue that he was "wrongly born" into a Muslim family, and therefore he is not a born-Muslim. Again, this opens up a can of worms. In normal cases like Lina Joy's, the fact that one is born to Muslim parents seals one's fate.

Zulhadi/Eddie's case will test the limits of this logic. What if the facts of one's birth are subsequently proven to be incorrect? Technically, he is not a born-Muslim, but in all other respects - he has led the life of one. Can he, 29 years later, now reclaim the choice that was [unintentionally] taken away from him at birth?

And I think the decision in this case will also have implications on cases where minor children of converts are "improperly" converted to Islam. A case in point is Subashini's where the Muslim-convert husband unilaterally converted their minor child to Islam without her consent. While the primary question of the legality of the child's conversion is itself in doubt, there is also a subsidiary question of whether the "improperly converted" child, upon attaining the age of majority, should be allowed to choose his own religion? For that matter, should a "properly" converted minor child be allowed the same choice upon majority, as he/she is technically not a born-Muslim as well?

Or will the courts take the one-way-ticket view of 'nasi sudah menjadi bubur' or what's done is done? If so, why wasn't this view applied to Lina Joy's conversion to Christianity?

Sigh... such are the problems when the institutions of mere men seek to supplant the almighty himself in the personal relationship between man and god.

Chinese man swopped at birth files suit to leave Islam

AN ODD-JOB worker who was mistakenly given to a Malay family at birth now wants to reclaim his real identity, reported the New Straits Times.

Mr Zulhadi Omar, 29, has the DNA test results to prove that his biological parents are Mr Teyo Ma Liong and Madam Lim Sik Hai.

On Friday, Mr Zulhadi filed a suit in the High Court here asking the director-general of the National Registration Department to declare that he is a Buddhist, not Muslim.

He was quoted as saying that his real name should be Eddie Teyo.

The newspaper noted that in his statement of claim, he said he was born at the Batu Pahat district hospital on July 17, 1978.

His birth certificate registered Mr Omar Saim and his wife Hasnah Salleh as his parents. His identity card stated his religion as Islam.

As a child, Mr Zulhadi was teased about his Chinese features.

He was quoted as saying in other reports that he never felt accepted by the Malay family that brought him up. He left home when he was 13.

On Feb 3, the New Straits Times reported that Mr Teyo and his wife had approached Mr Zulhadi at the supermarket where he worked. They did so after their daughter spotted him and wondered why he bore an uncanny resemblance to her father.

Mr Zulhadi did his own checks and found that on the same day and at the hospital where he was born, Mrs Teyo had given birth to a baby boy.

He went for a DNA test and learnt on Feb 12 that Mr and Mrs Teyo were his biological parents.

Mr Zulhadi's bid to have the word 'Islam' on his identity card struck out came a few days after Ms Lina Joy, a Christian convert, lost a battle in Malaysia's highest court to have the word 'Islam' deleted from her identity card.

Ms Lina, 43, is Malay and was born Azlina Jailani to Muslim parents.

Malaysians saw her case as the ultimate test as to whether Muslims in the country were free to renounce Islam.

Although Islam is the country's official religion, freedom of religion is guaranteed under the Constitution.

But Muslims see apostasy, or renouncing one's religion, as a sin.

The ruling on Ms Lina's case is driving another wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia.

There has been a spate of cases where Muslims married to non-Muslims have been separated forcibly by the religious authorities.


No comments: