Men are creatures of emotions, and when it comes to issues of faith, men are at their most emotional and sensitive. It is difficult to discuss rationally with regards to matters of faith, particularly in the public space. The only times when I've discussed religion extensively, was as part of my Philosophy course as well as with friends of various faith who were open to sharing differing views and opinions.
Hence, I'm writing with a little trepidation on the issue which I'm about to discuss and highlight.
Rayappan Anthony (71) died of diabetes complications recently. On his Identity Card issued by the National Registration Department (NRD) in 2000, his religion is stated as "Christianity". Together with his wife, M. Lourdes Mary, they were Roman Catholics and had six children from his Christian marriage.
On the surface, things appear pretty straightforward and his family should have the right to claim the body of Rayappan Anthony and perform the necessary Catholic burial rites.
Unfortunately for the family, Rayappan converted to Islam back in 1990 when he married a Muslim woman and changed his name to Muhamad Rayappan bin Abdullah. However, in 1999 he returned to his first family and reconverted to Christianity. He confirmed his profession of his Christian faith by way of a statutory declaration in front of a Commissioner for Oaths, submitted a deed poll to the NRD to change his Muslim name back to his original one and it was approved.
However, despite Rayappan's return to Christianity, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) is laying claim to the body for Rayappan to be buried in accordance to Islamic rites.
Clearly, Rayappan's right to profess and practise his religion, as enshrined in Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, has not been duly respected by the state religious authorities.
But without even taking the Constitution, with its overlapping complications, into the picture, the paramount consideration has to be given to the family who are already grieving from Rayappan's death and there is absolutely no necessity to compound their bereavement by taking his body away from them.
As far as I'm aware, all religions emphasizes the need for moral compassion, justice and consideration. There is no compassion, no justice and no consideration in MAIS' attempt to deny Rayappan's mourning family from saying their last goodbyes, in their own personal ways to him.
Let's hope that the case which is now being resolved in the Courts will be resolved in a manner in which justice, compassion and consideration prevails.