Two Courts

29 December 2005

From Malaysia comes a case of conflict between civilian and Shariah courts, which tangled this week over a Hindu widow’s wishes to bury her husband according to her — and, she claimed, her late husband’s — Hindu traditions. The widow, Kaliammal Sinnasamy, had appealed to the secular High Court after a Sharia judge had ruled that her husband, a soldier, had verbally converted to Islam in 2004, and should therefore be buried with Islamic rites, though Sinnasamy said that her husband still ate pork, drank alcohol and participated in Hindu ceremonies. The High Court judge to whom Sinnasamy appealed said that he could not override the Shariah decision, as civilian judges have no authority over the Shariah court in cases where their jurisdictions overlap, in cases concerning Islam. Non-Muslim citizens hope the case will lead to changes in the laws governing the two courts.

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