Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Interview of P. Waytha Moorthy, Malaysian Hindu rights activist

Waytha Moorthy
Hindu Voice UK, December 2007

P Waytha Moorthy is a Malaysian Hindu lawyer, and founder of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), an organization of lawyers which defends the civil rights of the Hindu minority in Malaysia, which is an Islamic country. HINDRAF has been in the news extensively over the past month, due to a huge rally which they organized in late November, which was banned by the Malaysian authorities. Subsequently Moorthy was arrested twice, and left Malaysia with the aim of raising international awareness to the problems facing Malaysian Hindus.

He is currently in Britain, and Hindu Voice UK arranged for an interview with him to gain a first hand account of what has been going on in Malaysia.

A Wikepedia entry for P Waytha Moorthy can be accessed here, giving brief biographical data. Picture below shows Moorthy (centre) after being discharged from a Malaysian court, on 26th November 2007, charged with sedition.

Would you say that the problems that your community faces in Malaysia are related more to ethnicity rather than religion?

There are elements of both. For example, Muslim Indians in Malaysia, who make up about 5% of the ethnic Indian population, do suffer some discrimination as a result of their Indian background, but in other ways they are looked on favorably because they share the same religion as the Malays, whereas with Hindus both our ethnicity and religion leads to marginalization.

You have recently been arrested twice over your championing of the rights of your community. How was your treatment while you were being detained?

The treatment was OK, there was no abuse, although there were long periods of solitary confinement.

What are you hoping to achieve while in the UK?

I am travelling to several countries, of which Britain is just one, with the aim of gaining overseas support from other human rights organizations as well as Hindus around the world. The Malaysian government is being very heavy handed in their approach towards us, trying to suppress our right to protest. Only international pressure will restrain them and bring them to negotiate and discuss our grievances with us. Already, it was only international considerations that led them to release myself and four other HINDRAF lawyers from detention.

How long have you been campaigning for the rights of Malaysian Hindus and was there any particular incident which first drew you towards this?

HINDRAF was formed in response to the case of Kaliammal Sinnasamy, a Hindu widow of a slain army commando. She wanted to have access to her husband’s body to give the Hindu funeral rites, but the Islamic authorities claimed that he had converted to Islam before he died, and therefore their marriage was nullified and she had no right to see him. Evidence points to the fact that he never changed his religion. He celebrated a Hindu festival shortly before his death, ate pork, and lived with his wife – who he never mentioned to about any change of religion. Furthermore, the Islamic authorities of Malaysia gave three different dates of his apparent conversion to Islam. From all accounts, it was obvious that he was a practicing Hindu all his life, but because he was a national hero he was pronounced as a Muslim. They performed a Muslim burial, without any reference to the wishes of his wife. This issue greatly enraged Hindu opinion. We were involved in legal attempts to allow the lady to gain the right to access her husband’s body,

Have you been to the UK before?

Yes. In fact I did my legal studies here, in London and Lincolnshire. My parents had to undergo a lot of financial hardship to send me to study in Britain – but it was necessary because there was no way I could get a university admission in Malaysia because of the selection procedures heavily favour the Malays.

Do most Malaysian Hindus still have links to their kin in India?

No. We were taken to Malaysia by the British as indentured labourers in the 19th century and were hence very poor. In those days there wasn’t technology that enabled contact with people in distant lands, except for the very rich. But we have maintained our culture and religion.

The Malaysian government has claimed that HINDRAF have links to terrorist groups. What is your response to these allegations?

We are a group of lawyers championing the civil rights of a community. These allegations are made up to try and prevent us from gaining international support. The government is trying to cover up the fact that what they are doing to my community is horrendous, by trying to defame us.

What is your two year outlook for the situation of Malaysian Hindus?

That’s impossible to stay, but what I do know is that there is a real determination amongst Hindus in Malaysia at present, and changes can occur if the passion that currently exists is used to challenge the inequality that we face. Unfortunately the Malaysian government is trying to terrorise us into submission by arresting and detaining Hindu leaders.

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