Earlier this month, a school’s assistant principal caned 10-year-old Basil Beginda from the eastern state of Sarawak for taking fried rice with pork to school for his lunch.
Consuming pork is not permissible for followers of Islam, which is Malaysia’s official religion, but there are no laws that forbid non-Muslim students from eating it in schools or public places.
The boy’s outraged mother lodged a complaint with the state’s education department, and the assistant principal – who is Muslim – subsequently issued an apology.
However, the case has sparked fierce debate on the rights of religious minority groups in Malaysia.
Non-Muslims, comprised mostly of Christians, Buddhists and Hindus, make up just over a third of Malaysia’s 28-million population.
Basil’s case has revived longstanding claims by minority religious groups that their rights to practise freely have been threatened under the Muslim-dominated government.
In the last two days, debates in Parliament have skirted around the legality of the assistant principal’s act, and instead have been centred around Basil’s religion.
Basil’s father, Beginda Anak Minda, claimed he legally converted from Islam 1999. His wife, who is a Christian, raised their son as a Christian.
However, a lawmaker claiming to know Beginda said the man was legally still Muslim, resulting in the government calling on the National Religious Department to investigate Beginda’s religious status.
Full article: http://wwrn.org/articles/34482/