BY FA ABDUL
Source: The Malaysian Insight
“MA, did you read about the Indira case?” my daughter asked, referring to the landmark ruling of the unilateral conversion of M. Indira Gandhi’s three children to Islam which the Federal Court declared null and void.
“Yup. Good news isn’t it?” I replied.
“Yes, it is good news but it is still sad.”
Curious, I asked her what about the case which made her sad, not at all suspecting what she had to say.
“Indira lost her husband upon his conversion to Islam in 2009 – the same time you were separated from Papa. And she was fighting for the custody of her children the same time you fought for our custody,” my daughter’s voice was soft but full of emotion.
“I never thought of it that way,” I admitted. “But then again, both cases ended well, don’t you think?”
There was a short silence on the other end of the line.
“It’s easy for you to say, Ma – you did not have to wait nine long years to have us. But Indira is still waiting to be united with her youngest daughter despite the so-called victory.”
Ouch. My daughter’s words were sharp, yet so true.
As I digested my daughter’s words, I realised how insignificant my struggle was, compared to those of Indira. Honestly, I was embarrassed that it had to take a daughter to remind her mother to understand the painful episode encountered by another mother.
“Sorry Ma, I did not mean to be rude. However, having been with you all these years, I know how difficult it was for you after the divorce – the financial constraints, the loneliness and the struggles. But you had us.”
Listening to my daughter, tears began rolling down my cheeks.
“Imagine if we were taken away from you for nine years. Imagine after nine years, you are told that you are entitled to have us back, but only if you could find us. Is that a victory you will be celebrating?”
“You are right, sayang,” I agreed. “You are absolutely right.”
“Malaysia owes Indira an apology, Ma. Every Muslim leader, every Muslim authority and every Muslim scholar who keep reminding us that Malaysia is an Islamic nation owe Indira an apology for not fighting for her rights in this so-called Islamic country.”
I listened to my daughter with pride, forgetting the embarrassment I felt earlier.
“You have always told me that Islam is all about love, respect, kindness and fairness – but I don’t see any of those values in how Indira was treated. Honestly Ma, it makes me embarrassed to call myself a Muslim in this so-called Islamic country.
“We have seen Muslims parading for the rights of the Rohingyas and the Palestinians who are hundreds and thousands of miles away, but no Muslims in Malaysia will ever protest demanding the rights for a non-Muslim like Indira. Why is that so, Ma?
“Is Islam in Malaysia all about chest thumping?”
Though I understood my daughter’s concern, I felt the urge to calm her down.
“I can understand your anger, sayang. But at least this ruling will prevent similar cases in the future. Let bygones be bygones and focus on what lies ahead. We cannot change our past, but we certainly can learn from it,” I explained.
“Not everything should be swept under the carpet, Ma. Nine years may not mean much to many people, but to a mother, it means a whole lot. A child becomes a teen in nine years. A teen becomes a young adult in nine years. You should know that, after all, you are also a mother.”
As I bid goodbye to my daughter who at the moment is at her campus in the International Islamic University of Malaysia, I am overwhelmed with pride, though my ego is slightly bruised.
My daughter does make perfect sense.
Today, we call the landmark ruling as a victory, yet most of us remained ignorant to Indira’s plight throughout the past nine years.
Today we have our leaders promising us that what happened to Indira shall not happen to anyone else, pledging that everyone deserves fair treatment regardless of their religion, whilst remaining silent throughout these past nine years.
Today, we have our religious authorities reminding us of our Islamic nation status, ever so worried of Indira’s Muslim convert children returning to Hinduism, when they remained ignorant of upholding the Islamic values of love, respect, kindness and fairness throughout these nine years.
I am not so sure anymore. – February 1, 2018.