Was only seven when told to take an oath to embrace Islam and renounce Hinduism

published on November 19, 2009

In a spot after ‘embracing’ Islam as a minor

Bernard Cheah – http://www.thesundaily.com/article.cfm?id=40424

GEORGE TOWN (Nov 19, 2009) : She was only seven when she was told to take an oath to embrace Islam and renounce her original faith.

Siti Hasnah Vangarama Abdullah, now 27, was in a government welfare home, Rumah Kanak-kanak in Taman Bakti, Kepala Batas, when she and several other children, some of whom were Chinese, were told by Perkim and the Penang Muslim Affairs Council to take the oath and renounce her original Hindu faith.

Born Banggarma Subramaniam, she practised Islam in the welfare home until the age of 15.
“I was more mature and realised what had happened, and started practising Hinduism again,” she said in a press conference yesterday to highlight her plight.

Banggarma said ran away from the welfare home three years later, unable to cope with the stress of living in the home.

She married S. Sockalingam, 31, according to Hindu rites, but could not register the marriage as, according to the National Registration Department, she was a Muslim.
She also could not name Sockalingam as father of their two children, Kanagaraj, 8 and Hisyanthini, 2, in their birth certificates due to this.

“When I went back to the home in 2001 to collect my documents I was told that I was still a Muslim,” she said. Banggarma tried to change her name in her MyKad to her original name, but failed.

She and Sockalingam, who are residing in Tanjung Piandang, Perak, approached the relevant authorities to help her to revert to Hinduism, but their efforts were in vain.

They then turned to PKR Kedah’s Deputy Youth chief Gooi Hsiao Leung for help.
Gooi, a lawyer, said no minor is capable of giving free consent to renounce his or her own religion and embrace Islam.

“At the age of seven, she would not have understood nor appreciated the meaning of the words in the oath. She could hardly even write and spell her own name,” he told the press yesterday. Gooi said the welfare home should have left Banggarma’s original religion alone until she was old enough to decide for herself.

He said he would refer her case to the relevant authorities, and if necessary, take the issue to court.

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