Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Terror of the ‘Body Snatchers’

So here we go again with another episode of ‘the body snatchers.’ As reported in Malaysiakini, the Islamic authorities – this time in Penang – have struck again.

I have to wonder, just how long will the Badawi government continue to permit these so-called ‘Islamic authorities’ to continue to run amok with such practices. Surely, this is now rising to the level of being a farce about how these ‘Islamic authorities’ are being permitted by the federal government to enforce their apparent jurisdiction in such matters. Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed for this government - and sad for us as Malaysians - that we have allowed our government to set in motion such a process of treating both those still in this world and those who have passed along with such indignity and contempt – all in the name of religion. How ironic indeed.

To quote from the Malaysiakini report, the brother of the deceased in this case, Mr. Selvam, “said the family was only given a scribbled note allegedly written by Elangesvaran [the deceased] about his conversion, but it did not bear any signature or thumbprint of the deceased or any witnesses.”

Now while there are so many things about such cases of apparent ‘body snatching’ by these religious zealots that should be troubling to all fair-minded Malaysians – not to mention our government – it is mind-boggling that, if the above quote is true, these ‘Islamic authorities’ can seemingly operate and enforce their claim on such flimsy evidence. Is this how we want to go about ensuring our civil rights? These religious zealots seem to be operating more like a religious ‘Gestapo’ that rides roughshod rather than a religious authority guided by a system of legitimate and well-vetted procedures so as to assure some accountability and respect for the rights of all citizens – living and dead.

I can’t help but find these zealots to be of the same mold as other self-proclaimed and self-righteous ‘moral police’ who profess to preach to us, for example, that school girls’ uniforms need to be made of thicker cloth so as not to tempt men. Further, apparently if left un-addressed, these girls wearing less than modest clothing will regress into social vices such as prostitution! Such bizarre ideas get peddled in the public forum and most level-headed Malaysians are forced to endure such preposterous ‘reasoning’ – if we could call it that. I am inclined to suspect it is often these same self-professed ‘moral police’ who graduate to become part of the religious ‘Gestapo’ who then take it upon themselves to inflict distress and pain on families such as Mr. Selvam’s.

It appears, as noted in the aforementioned report that the government has proposed new guidelines and rules for the matter of religious conversion. What are they? What has become of these rules? If there is one issue that needs to be a top priority, surely this is it! It is bad enough that family members of a deceased have to endure the loss of a loved one; to have to deal with the terror of the ‘body snatching Gestapo’ is simply emotional and mental pain that no one, under any circumstance, should have to endure.

G. Krishnan