UPDATED TUE 29 Jan 08: From today's posting on Lim Kit Siang's blog: "the Gor family has lost all avenues of redress in the civil courts, as their application to the Seremban High Court for a declaration that Gor was not a Muslim was dismissed this morning in chambers on the ground that the High Court has no jurisdiction in the matter, as it belonged to the Syariah Court."
The Civil Court had earlier rejected the Gan's appeal for an injunction to stop the religious authorities from removing the deceased's body from the morgue on the same excuse of abdicating their jurisdiction to the Syariah Court.
See also an emotional account of this wholly unsatisfactory latter civil court conclusion from a member of Gan's family.
Sean the man thinks it's high time that Muslim civil court judges recuse themselves (and it they won't, be categorically disqualified) from presiding over cases dealing with the jurisdiction of the civil vs syariah courts over non-Muslims. From the trend of judgments made by Muslim judges on this and similar cases, I think that it's is obvious and apparent by now that Muslim judges are simply unable to separate their duties as impartial members of the judiciary (upholding civil laws), from their personal religious convictions.
UPDATED SUN 27 Jan 08: Added the open letter from Gan Hock Ming (written on behalf of the Gan family), copies of the official conversion documents, copies of doctor's references (as to the deceased's mental and physical condition) and some photos of the family.I blogged earlier in Police degenerate into religious body snatchers - about Gan Eng Gor, an elderly Buddhist Chinese man, whose eldest son (a Muslim convert) and the State Religious Council claim that he had converted to Islam in July last year. The old man died, and there was an almighty fight between his Muslim eldest son and State religious council versus his widows and seven other children. Why? The former wanted him buried as a Muslim, and the latter wanted him to have a Buddhist/Taoist burial.
I have to say their side of the story strongly reinforces the fact that the religious authorities and Syariah court acted unfairly to accept & validate respectively, a deathbed conversion under what can only be termed as the 'most dubious of circumstances' and in doing so - perpetrated a great injustice. And with regards to the Syariah court, it must be said that they acted wildly beyond the boundaries of their limited authority.
Also do note the numerous deficiencies and suspicious elements in the conversion documents raised by the Gans. I also think their query as to why the religious dept paid zero attention to a pork-eating new convert who never prayed even once (much less 5 times a day) until he died is extremely valid and calls their motives & methods into deep question.
The update is at the bottom of the original blogpost.
On 24 Jan 08, against the tearful lamentations of the widow (inset), the Negeri Sembilan Syariah court ruled that the deceased was indeed a Muslim.
An elderly ethnic Chinese man has been buried as a Muslim after his Buddhist family lost a battle with the Islamic authorities who said he had converted, his son said today. - Malaysiakini
(China Press, Seremban, 24 Jan 2008) Negeri Sembilan Syariah Court declared Gan Eng Gor was a Muslim, he must be buried with Islamic ritual and in the Muslim cemetery in a legal tussle amongst the siblings of Gan. The Syariah Court set aside all court orders to prevent Gan's remains from burial according to Islamic law and also ordered police to assist the state Islamic Religious Council to claim the remains of Gan from a funeral parlour.
The Judge, Muhamad Nadzri Abdul Rahman made the ex-parte judgment at 10.42 AM after hearing the testimonies from officers of Islamic Religious Council in certifying that Gan Eng Gor was converted to islam under his will. All siblings and wife of late Gan except his eldest son, Abdul Rahman Gan Abdullah were absent in the proceeding. - translated by malaysiatoday.com
The court's judge, Mohamad Nadzri Abdul Rahman, told The Associated Press he ruled in favor of the eldest son because the father's wife and seven other children, who had disputed the conversion, were not in court Thursday and he couldn't hear their arguments.The most contentious thing about this whole affair is the conversion of the deceased.
Gan Hock Sin, one of the sons of the dead man, said the family didn't go to the Shariah court because they felt it was unfair that the case was heard there. "It's not fair for us. I don't know how they say he converted. My father couldn't even talk (before his death)," Gan told the AP. "Unfortunately we feel the way they do (these conversions) is not fair for non-Muslim people. The government should be more transparent," he said. He said the police seized the body as the family was carrying out Buddhist rites in a Chinese funeral parlor.
The family had asked the state's civil High Court to hear the case, but a judge ruled he had no jurisdiction in the matter as the Shariah court had already made a decision, said a court official, who declined to be named citing protocol. - AP reproduced by malaysiatoday.com
Namely, how does a paralysed man who couldn't talk nor write convert to Islam?
The courts routinely rule against death bed changes to wills, inheritances, the granting of powers of attorney etc. when it involves people who might be mentally or physically incapable of making rational decisions. Why? Because their physical or mental state might preclude their ability to express their legal intentions conclusively or cast doubts on the soundness of their minds and faculties in having such intentions.
The deceased was paralysed. He couldn't talk. He was very sick, having suffered multiple strokes. How did the Syariah court come to the conclusion that he had willingly and of sound mind, converted? How did he sign the documents for the conversion? Was a thumbprint used? Is a thumbprint of a paralysed man convincing evidence of his intentions? Is this the standard of evidence of a Syariah court or a Kangaroo court?
There are other issues brought upon by this alleged 'conversion'.
What is the status of his marriage to his non-Muslim wife?
How will his assets be distributed to his wife and children? Tell me, does the eldest son inherit more from a deceased Muslim father or non-Muslim father, especially if some of his 8 children are daughters?
Why is the civil court, yet again, relinquishing it's jurisdiction to the Syariah court? Isn't Gan a Non-Muslim under the jurisdiction of a Civil court, until he is proven to be a Muslim? And doesn't a Malaysian come under the jurisdiction of a Syariah court, only AFTER he is proven to be a Muslim? How can a Syariah court make a judgement that a Non-Muslim has converted when it has no jurisdiction over Non-Muslims, and therefore it CANNOT presume judgement of any sort, over them?
Again, why must Non-Muslims be compelled to appear in a Syariah court, which has NO jurisdiction over their rights? In this case, their rights to give their father (who is still of disputed religious status) a proper Non-Muslim burial?
In light of the increasing number of religious body snatching cases, sean the man reckons that all Non-Muslims in Malaysia should carry on their person, evidence that they are NOT MUSLIM.
Here's a Hell NO, I'm not a Muslim Card, fashioned after the universal organ donor card. I figure that if an organ donor card can determine what happens to your internal organs after you die, it can do the same for your entire body.
So if you care about what happens to your Non-Muslim body after you kick the bucket: print out this card, fill it up and keep it on your person so that you are protected against the body snatchers.
And here are a couple of links to the blogs of members of Gan's family, recounting their harrowing experience.The UPDATE begins here:
Justice and Fair play for the family of Gan Eng Gor (deceased)
1. Our father was seventy‐four (74) years old. He suffered a severe stroke in 2006. He was immobilized, bedridden, mentally unsound, cannot speak, partially deaf and has very poor vision.
2. We transferred him to stay with one of our brothers in Klang. Our aged mother looked after, bathed and fed him. She also helped to look after our nephews and nieces.
3. Our father died on 20th Jan 2008. As Gan Hock Seng (the eldest son) is a member of the family, we informed him of our father's death. He was then told us that our father is a muslim, we were shocked and did not believe him. So we continue to perform the wake service as our father have never led a muslim life. The Majlis Agama officers came and attempted to snatch the dead body, all our family members more shocked and angry, we resisted and strongly protested against the removal of our father's body.
4. We obtained his alleged conversion papers from Majlis Agama the second day.
5. We were advised by our solicitors that there are serious irregularities in the said conversion papers especially the Declaration of Conversion into Islam.
a). The declaration was before a Pegawai Ukhuwah. His rubber stamp was on the paper but that officer did not sign.
b). Further there was no signatory at the certification column.
c). There was an illegal alteration on the date to 3rd July 2007.
d). The thumb‐print was questionable as we are certain that our deceased father was in Klang and not at the address No. 451, Taman Megaway, 70400 Sikamat, Seremban as stated in the application form.
e). His address stated in the Borang Perakuan Memeluk Islam is No: 1272, Jalan TBK 6/2, Taman Bkt Kepayang, 70200 Seremban, the residence of the eldest son. We wish to state that our father has never resided at this address.
f). The Majlis Agama Authorities claimed that our deceased father made an oral declaration in Arabic accepting the Muslim faith. Our family has medical confirmations from three doctors that our father was unable to speak.
g). We were asked to appear before the Syariah Court Seremban, we believe the Syariah Court is for Muslims only.
h). We refused to attend at the Syariah Court on a matter of principle as non‐Muslims. We refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court.
i). The Syariah Court made a unilateral declaration that our father is a Muslim and is to be buried in accordance to Muslim rites.
j). We filed an application at the High Court Seremban to adjudicate on the validity, authenticity, veracity and legality of the conversion paper especially the declaration of acceptance into Islam.
k). The High Court Seremban dismissed our application on the ground that he has no jurisdiction to hear this matter as the subject matter falls within the purview of the Syariah Court. We beg to differ.
l). We were indeed shocked and aggrieved at the simplistic way the High Court disposed off this matter. We only seek justice, fair play and to find out the truth on his alleged conversion.
10. The eldest son Gan Hock Seng converted to Islam years ago. Our father and mother had strenuously opposed his conversion.
11. This eldest son had allegedly converted our father without the knowledge of our mother and all other seven siblings.
12. Further, the eldest son had NEVER taken care of him physically and financially. He hardly visited him too.
13. Even if the eldest son had converted our father, we like to ask :‐
i). Why is it that he did not take care of him and brought him to stay in his house to lead a Muslim life?
ii). Why did he allow our father to continue living in a non‐muslim home in Klang ? Our father had never prayed and continued eating pork and other non‐halal food. He never revealed to anyone that he has converted to Islam.
iii). Why he as a Muslim, did not ensure that our father (if he had been indeed converted) led a Muslim life ?
iv). Why is it that the Agama Islam authorities did not visit and follow up with our father – the alleged new convert, after his conversion?
14. We believe we have been unfairly treated by our eldest brother and the Agama Islam authorities in this alleged conversion of our father. If there had been a conversion, we firmly believe that the Agama Islam authorities should have informed all members of the family. There should not be a fight over the body of dead person. There should be dignity and respect on the dead person.
15. We hope the PM and the higher ups in the Islamic Authorities review this case and to ensure that the truth is unraveled. We hope that all conversions to Islam is fair and transparent and made known to all the next of kin of the convert.
We Seek Justice, Fair play and Truth in this matter.
Gan Hok Ming for and on behalf of the family members of Gan Eng Gor (deceased)
Date: 25th January 2008