The Plight of Loh Siew Hong: Maintaining Love in Keluarga Malaysia; respect the Federal Constitution

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Loh Siew Hong and her children

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) urges all parties to put humanity and family love in keluarga Malaysia (the Malaysian family) before any misplaced sense of community pride and allow the three children of domestic violence victim Loh Siew Hong to be returned to him with full custody including over their faith.

GBM urges all parties to refrain from seeing this as a communal competition to determine one’s faith as harmonious inter-ethnic relationship and the image of Islam are undermined.

The fact that Loh’s children return to their mother does not close the door to becoming Muslims as adults.

As Islam is a compassionate and just faith, it regards faith – hidayah (to embrace Islam) – as the absolute right of Allah. If Allah wills, then no one can prevent anyone from embracing Islam of their own free will.

Islam does not tolerate inhumane acts like Australia’s past policy (1905-1967), which abducted Aboriginal children and placed them in government agencies and churches for assimilation.

Islam also emphasizes family ties notwithstanding religious differences, [as seen in the example of] Prophet Mohamad’s unwavering love for his uncle Abu Talib, who protected the Prophet from harm but remained a non-believer until his death.

GBM calls on all parties to consider and accept Emeritus Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi’s informed opinion on the Federal Constitution, the cornerstone of the nation’s integrity, and laws on this matter, among others:

Support the struggle to build a Malaysia based on Justice, Freedom, Solidarity:
  • A custody order made by the courts binds everyone and any breach of the court order may constitute contempt of court. No one is safe from this law
  • The Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any state law that violates the Federal Constitution may be struck down by the superior civil courts.
  • The 2018 Federal Court decision M Indira Gandhi is a binding authority for the proposition that the unilateral conversion of minors to another religion without the consent of both parents is unconstitutional

GBM expresses its full sympathy to Loh, who suffered physical abuse from her ex-husband Nagahswaran Muniandy and separation from her husband. GBM urges all parties to consider these facts when forming their views on the matter:

  • Deprived of financial support beyond rental services by Nagahswaran, Loh has had to work to support her family since 2014, when her youngest son was three.
  • Starting in 2017, Nagahswaran started taking crystal meth (ice) and became jealous and abusive, and she learned that he even had an affair.
  • Between 2017 and 2019, she was severely assaulted twice. After the first assault, he broke her legs and arms. She was put in a cast for six months and placed in a nursing home for a month by the Department of Social Welfare. He was released on bail of RM10,000. During the second assault, Nagahswaran hit his head with a hammer and again broke his legs. She was hospitalized and received 27 stitches on her head
  • While recovering from her broken legs in the second assault, Loh took refuge in a shelter at the Women’s Center for Change in Penang and eventually found a job as a chef in Genting Highland.
  • In July 2019, she was granted interim custody of her children and later filed for divorce. At that time, Nagahswaran was sentenced to a two-year prison term in Kelantan for a drug-related offense
  • Loh was unable to reunite with her children until recently when she discovered her 14-year-old twin daughters with an Islamic NGO and her 10-year-old son in a tahfiz in Penang. All three converted to Islam without his knowledge and consent. His search for them in 2020 and 2021 was made difficult by cross-state travel restrictions under the movement control order

GBM calls on all Malaysians, regardless of religious, ethnic, cultural and political background, to unite in standing up for mothers and children suffering from domestic violence and to refrain from presenting human suffering from communal angles to sociopolitical purposes.

In particular, the “keluarga Malaysia” government of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob must be 100% committed to supporting abused families, parents and children.

GBM is convinced that Malaysians can find a fair and reasonable solution to the plight of Loh and her children. Malaysian Muslims should not believe in the alarmism that non-Muslims want to reduce the number of Muslims.

Let us not forget that Malaysia is never short of encouraging stories of Malaysian children raised as Muslims by their non-Muslim adoptive parent, including retired kindergarten teacher Connie Wong in Kota Kinabalu who raised at least four Muslim children in the past 20 years, retired businessman Lim Peng Chik (74 in 2019) in Ipoh who raised four Malaysian teenagers like his own, and most recently, retired kindergarten teacher Chee Hoi Lam who raised Rohana Abdullah.

GBM urges Malaysians to see that we are transformed into different ethnicities and faiths, when God could have made us homogeneous if he wished, so that we recognize and love each other. Let’s not let our differences separate us or aim to eliminate diversity out of fear.

Badlishah Sham Baharin is President of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia. He issued this statement on behalf of the GBM Executive Board

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