Malaysian Chinese Man Swapped at Birth Seeks to Renounce Islam
By SEAN YOONG
Associated Press WriterKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- An ethnic Chinese Malaysian mistakenly given by doctors to a Malay Muslim couple at birth nearly three decades ago is bracing for a possible legal battle so he can renounce Islam, an action that can be considered a crime in parts of Malaysia.Zulhaidi Omar, 29, who now goes by the name Eddie to his family and friends, said he discovered his true identity by chance and met his biological parents in 1998 after years of being teased about his Chinese features.
"I want to get my life back in order now," Zulhaidi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his southern home state of Johor.Zulhaidi, a sales executive raised in an ethnic Malay Muslim family, said he was revealing his story only now because he wants to take a Chinese name and change his religion to Buddhism. About 20 percent of the Malaysian population is Buddhist. He declined to comment further, citing sensitivities concerning religion in this predominantly Muslim nation. The constitution does not allow Muslims to renounce their religion, and doing so is considered apostasy and punishable by jail in several states, though not in Johor.
Michael Tay, a politician with the Malaysian Chinese Association who is helping Zulhaidi, said he was negotiating with Johor state authorities to grant Zulhaidi's request. "The academic question is whether he can return to his Chinese identity," Tay told the AP. "I have told (Zulhaidi) it could be an uphill battle, but he still wants it," Tay said. It is not clear how long a resolution might take and the case could eventually be handed to the Islamic Shariah court, which presides over religious issues involving Muslims, Tay said. State religious officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Malaysian media first reported over the weekend Zulhaidi's claim that he was spotted working in a supermarket eight years ago by his biological sister who noticed he was the spitting image of their father, Teo Ma Leong, 67. A DNA test later confirmed the relationship and Zulhaidi moved in with his parents three months later, The Star newspaper reported.
"The Malay boy that the Teo family brought home because of the mix-up was raised as Tian Fa, and is now married to a Chinese woman, according to The Star. Tian Fa told the newspaper he has no intention of looking for his biological family and is happy to treat Teo and his wife, Lim Sai Hak, as his parents."
Created: 2/5/2007 9:12:31 AM
Updated: 2/5/2007 9:13:03 AM