Due to a religious edict, Muslim children of unmarried couples are facing the grim prospect of not being permitted to carry their father’s name and inherit their parents’ property.
According to 24-year-old Faisal Abdullah, his mother was disowned for refusing to marry his biological father. As he was considered an illegitimate child, he was bullied and teased when he was young.
“My cousins laughed at me. Other children at school knew the ‘Abdullah’ in my name meant I was born out of wedlock and they called me names and teased me frequently.”
In July, the Court of Appeal ruled that the National Registration Department (NRD) abused its authority in using “Abdullah” in registering babies conceived out of wedlock, even for a Muslim baby born within six months of the parents’ marriage.
According to Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli, who decided on the case with two other judges, the practice violates the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1957 (BDRA) and embarrasses such children.
The religious edict aims to prevent fornication, but “we believe Islam does not permit the public humiliation of innocent children,” said the judges.
However, the Federal Court granted a stay on the Court of Appeal’s ruling on 21 August, pending an appeal from the NRD and the Johor Islamic Religious Council, which sought to intervene and side with the department to overturn the lower court’s decision in favour of the couple from Johor.
According to child rights activist Hartini Zainudin, children born out of wedlock face many serious problems like lack of access to subsidised health care and public schools. They are also unable to buy property or open a bank account.
Given this grim situation, some of these persons are even thinking of committing suicide.
This is the case for a 23-year-old female whose application for citizenship was not approved by the authorities because she was born out of wedlock to a Malaysian father and an Indonesian mother.
“The girl who wrote to me is constantly terrified of getting picked up in a police raid as she has no documents – the authorities have even asked her to go to the Indonesian embassy and request a passport from them, but she is Malaysian,” said she added.
Image sourced from FMT.
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