Revathi, That’s My Name - Forever

M Revathi, 29, still steadfastly wants to remain a Hindu, despite her six month detention by religious authorities and ongoing efforts to make her a Muslim.

“My name is Revathi. I want to hold on to that name - forever. I want to drop the name Siti Fatimah,” Revathi, sporting pottu (Hindu symbol) on her forehead, told reporters outside the Shah Alam High Court today.

Born Siti Fatimah Abdul Karim to Muslim convert parents, she was called Revathi Masoosai by the grandmother who raised her.

She married V Suresh in 2004 according to Hindu rites and has a 18-month old daughter.

In January this year, Revathi was detained at the Malacca Syariah High Court when she attended a hearing over her application to have her official religious status be recognised as a Hindu.

She was detained at the court and subsequently held at the Ulu Yam religious rehabilitation camp in Selangor for six months until she was freed yesterday.

Speaking about her experience inside the camp, Revathi today described that she was subjected to ‘mental torture’ and claimed that she defied attempts to coerce her to follow religious classes.

“Their programmes are solely on religion. (There were also) prayer classes. I never attended (any of them). I only attended counselling. During counselling, they said I had to do this and that. They said I had to follow (religious) laws. I just buat tidak tahu (ignore).

“I argued that I had a right to choose my religion, but they replied that I should not talk about (my) rights,” said Revathi who is presently living with her Muslim parents as ordered by the religious authorities.

‘Many ran away’

She claimed that many had ran away from the ‘jail-like’ conditions of the camp but she had not.

“A lot of people ran away, even though (the camp was for Muslims). Though I’m a Hindu, I could bertahan (bear with the conditions), because I’m upholding the good name of Hinduism,” she added.

During her detention, she was not allowed visits. Recalling the only time she got to see her husband during her detention, Revathi said:

“Even though I was not allowed to meet my husband, I got to see him (standing) outside the camp, without their permission. I saw his car and I ran towards the fence. It was only once (I got to see him during the detention). After that, they (from the centre) dragged me away.

“Before, it was not enclosed. Now, they used zinc (sheets) to surround the area. You can’t see inside and we won’t know who is outside,” she said.

The emotional moment where Revathi and Suresh were momentarily reunited was captured on film by Al-Jazeera and aired on April 23 in current affairs programme Everywoman.

Revathi was initially detained for 80 days at the camp but her detention was extended for 100 days twice. Her stint ended yesterday when she was presented before the Malacca Syariah Court.

‘Waste of my time’

She was ordered to live with her parents and undergo counselling. She lamented that she was “unsatisfied” with the decisions made by the court.

“They held me for six months, only to say that I cannot leave Islam. If that is the case, they should have told me earlier, so I don’t have to go into the centre.

“Who’s going to compensate for the six months I was there? (It is a) waste of my time! I was separated from my child and husband. How are they going to compensate?” she asked.

“I have a right to choose my religion. In six months, they cannot make me change my mind, how can they do it now?”

She also said that religious officials tried to force her to pray, eat beef and wear a headscarf.

"Because of their behaviour, I hate (benci) Islam even more now," she added.

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