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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 December 2005, 07:39 GMT
Muslim burial for Malaysian hero
Kaliammal Sinnasamy (left), the widow of M. Moorthy
Mr Moorthy's widow was in tears after Wednesday's ruling
A Malaysian mountaineering hero will be buried as a Muslim, against the wishes of his Hindu wife, who denied he had converted to Islam before his death.

The decision follows a High Court ruling that it cannot override the country's Islamic courts in matters of religious conversion.

An Islamic court had said the man, M Moorthy, had become a Muslim last year.

Lawyers say the case highlights problems faced by non-Muslims dealing with Malaysia's Islamic justice system.

"So much for good interracial relations," Haris Mohamad Ibrahim, a lawyer representing Malaysia's Bar Council, told The Associated Press.

"The judge has just told the widow and her family to go back and leave the body of their beloved to be buried by strangers."

Coma

M Moorthy, 36, was a Hindu when he became a national hero in 1997 as a member of the first Malaysian expedition to conquer Mount Everest.

But when he died a week ago family supporters and state Islamic officials jostled one another at the mortuary as each tried to claim his body.

An Islamic Sharia court subsequently upheld a claim by his former colleagues in the army that he had become a Muslim last year.

However his family, who want him to have a Hindu funeral, were not allowed to appear before the court to dispute his conversion because they are not Muslims.

The family went to the civil court and argued that Mr Moorthy was a practising Hindu right up to a recent accident when he fell from his wheelchair and lapsed into a coma.

They say he was even interviewed for local television two months ago about his preparations for the Hindu festival of Diwali.

But the High Court agreed with government lawyers who argued the civil court had no jurisdiction.

Lawyers for the dead man's relatives say the ruling leaves non-Muslims little protection in family disputes considered under Islamic law.

Most Malaysians are Muslim but the country's constitution guarantees freedom of worship for all.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See scenes outside the court



SEE ALSO:
Row over Malaysian family laws
22 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Malaysia: Islam and multi-culturalism
07 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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