Many in Muslim-majority Malaysia — where corporal punishment in schools is allowed — have questioned the parents' six-week detention and their children reportedly being placed with a non-Muslim foster family.
Azizul Raheem Awaluddin, a Malaysian tourism board director, and his wife Shalwati Nurshal, a teacher, were held on December 18 after they allegedly scolded and hit their youngest son on the arm for not performing his prayers, Malaysian media reported.
The seven-year-old and his three older siblings arrived in Malaysia on Saturday after the country's authorities lobbied for their return. The parents remain in custody in Sweden.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, flanked by the four yawning kids, said in a live televised press conference shortly after their arrival that the government would try its best to help the parents defend their case.
He said the government had appealed for the children to be allowed to return to Malaysia to stay with a relative "because we are concerned about their welfare." The eldest daughter, Aishah, 14, said she was "really really happy" to be back.
Swedish authorities were reportedly alerted about the alleged abuse by the boy's school.
The case has generated much interest in Malaysia. A Facebook page, titled "Bring Shal and Family Home" and lobbying for the parents' release, has received more than 17,000 "likes", or clicks of approval.
Columnist M. Veera Pandiyan wrote in The Star daily on Wednesday that the couple's prolonged detention was "a travesty of universal justice. If it was the case of Malaysian authorities holding a European couple without trial for a month, there would no doubt be a huge outcry," he said.