Each passing day without her daughter, is one of injustice for Indira Gandhi, observes Mustafa K Anuar.
In her recent Chinese New Year message, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail reminded Malaysians of the importance of the family institution.
Filial piety and the strengthening of family bonds, she said, are of utmost importance, particularly when it comes to caring for elderly parents.
But the crucial bond between mother and child starts from day one, and no one knows this better than suffering former kindergarten teacher Indira Gandhi, who pines for her long lost youngest daughter Prasana Diksa. Prasana was snatched away from Indira by her ex-husband, K Pathmanathan, some nine years ago after he converted to Islam.
It has been an endless ordeal for Indira as she waits for her daughter to be returned to her. For one thing, Indira has been deprived of the tender loving touch of her growing daughter and the occasions to celebrate Prasana’s birthdays.
Life could not have been bleaker for Indira. She is now jobless and more vulnerable because the kindergarten where she worked has closed down.
Her former husband, who now assumes the name of Muhammad Riduan Abdullah, has been on the run and has not yet been located and arrested by the authorities.
The stakes have got higher following the abduction of the child, especially after Indira was granted child custody and after the Federal Court then ruled that the unilateral conversions of the three children, including the youngest, were null and void. In other words, Riduan is on the wrong side of the law.
And yet certain quarters in the Malay-Muslim community, particularly the Malaysian Association of Muslim Scholars (PUM), are adamant that the father and daughter should not be hunted for fear that the abducted daughter might eventually be induced to leave the Islamic faith. PUM even stated that if the father and daughter were to be caught by the authorities, it would possibly lead to religious violence. A serious threat indeed.
This is despite Indira’s assurance that she would not seek to change her daughter’s faith. All she wanted was to be reunited with her beloved Prasana.
It is alarming for peace-loving Malaysians that the response to this hoped-for reunion from sections of the Muslim community was the threat of violence.
The seeming acquiescence of the powers that be over this matter may send out a wrong signal to other fathers, who may decide to run away with their children and, possibly, change their faith.
Some mechanism ought to be put in place to address the Indira’s grievances as soon as possible. Each passing day without her daughter, is one of injustice – a heart-wrenching plight for her. If her case is still not given its due closure, our rule of law becomes all the more questionable.
It is also useful to remember that the Islam which Riduan embraces puts a high premium on family bonds. Even a child who marries someone out of her parents’ religion is not expected to sever family ties, but instead keep and cherish family kinship.
If Riduan and the powers that be need reminding, Islam also enjoins its followers to have compassion, justice and love in our human interaction.
All Indira wants is to see Prasana, whom she could only remember as a little toddler.
Is it really a “new Malaysia” if reuniting a parent with her child is too much to ask for?