Complications arising from overlapping state laws with religion are never-ending, particularly with Islam. Much of Borneo and the former British colonies on the island were Christian before what is now the state of Sabah and Sarawak (aka East Malaysia) entered a federation with Muslim Malaysia.
As Malaysia evolved so did internal migration and cross-culture absurdities inevitably came about. This reality was highlighted this week by a case involving a Muslim man who raped a 12-year-old girl and was able to obtain permission to marry her under Sharia law – avoiding prosecution in the process.
Thankfully, local prosecutors are pursuing a statutory rape charge against 40-year-old restaurant manager Riduan Masmud, who allegedly had sex with the girl in a parked car outside the Sabah state capital Kota Kinabalu in February. The girl is now 13 and his defense is that he married her.
State officials in Sabah want the marriage annulled. The girl is known to be from a very poor family and in one interview Riduan said the rape was a case of “suka sama suka” (“mutual consent”).
He was quoted in a report as saying that he would let her finish her studies and “maybe later take up a cosmetic course with my first wife,” who he added was a make-up artist.
The father of the girl apparently accepted the marriage saying, “What else could I do?” Her case only came to light following complaints from an aunt.
Riduan is currently free after posting bail of about U.S. $2,600.
Earlier this week a court told the prosecution it had until June 6 to decide whether or not to proceed with rape charges against Riduan after legal moves were made in April to have the case withdrawn following the marriage.
Welfare groups were outraged that Riduan was allowed to marry the girl, although the Sharia Court that allowed the nuptials has apparently said it could be annulled because Riduan did not tell the court that this was his second marriage when he applied for a certificate to marry the girl.
Gerakan Wanita’s deputy chief, Ng Siew Lai, said Riduan should not be allowed to walk free.
“I am really disgusted with the action of the rapist, whose name I cannot even bear to say out,” Ng said. “The girl is just a child who has a future, but due to the action of the rapist, it has gone up in smoke.”
She added that all children and in particular girls must be protected until they reach maturity.
“Simply marrying the victim will be seen as seeking the back-door attempt to escape punishment,” Ng continued. “We can never allow a rapist to go scot-free after raping a victim by marrying her. Gerakan Wanita firmly believes that prosecution should be mandatory in statutory rape cases and marriage can never be a solution.”