How will non-Muslims get justice if they can’t be in the Shariah Court? Interfaith panel asks

Source: The Malay Mail Online

M. Indira Gandhi is pictured at the Court of Appeal, Putrajaya, December 30, 2015. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

M. Indira Gandhi is pictured at the Court of Appeal, Putrajaya, December 30, 2015. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 — Today’s Court of Appeal deferment to the Shariah Court in M. Indira Gandhi’s case effectively means non-Muslims are left in legal limbo when challenging unilateral conversions of their children to Islam, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) said today.

MCCBCHST vice-president Jagir Singh criticised the Court of Appeal’s majority ruling today, where the civil court’s judges said only the Shariah courts can decide on the religious status of a Hindu mother’s children who were unilaterally converted by their Muslim convert parent.

“By pushing conversion cases to the Shariah courts the Court of Appeal appears to have abdicated its duty. It is akin to say, yes, you have a right but have no remedy,” the MCCBCHST immediate past president told Malay Mail Online when contacted for comments.

Jagir, who is also a lawyer, questioned how a Shariah Court, which only has jurisdiction over Muslims, can dispense justice to non-Muslims.

“About 20 years ago, it was the civil court who were hearing all conversion cases. This was correctly so as the Shariah court have no jurisdiction over non-Muslims and non-Muslims cannot appear as witnesses in a Shariah Court.

“Therefore, how is a Shariah court going to administer justice as it will not have the evidence of the non-Muslim parties involved in the case?” he asked.

Jagir said the Court of Appeal’s ruling today will not solve the predicaments faced by the spouse that had not converted to Islam, such as Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi in today’s case. Read more

Sad day for religious minorities, interfaith council rep says after conversion ruling

Source: The Malay Mail Online

M. Indira Gandhi is pictured at the Court of Appeal, Putrajaya, December 30, 2015. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

M. Indira Gandhi is pictured at the Court of Appeal, Putrajaya, December 30, 2015. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 30 — The appellate court’s ruling today on unilateral conversions in M Indira Gandhi’s case is a major setback for the country’s religious minorities, a representative of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) said.

Lawyer Philip Koh, who was holding a watching brief for the council, said the decision meant that the spouse in a civil law marriage could unilaterally convert a child without the permission or knowledge of his estranged partner.

“This is a sad day for minority faith communities,” he told reporters after the appellate court delivered its ruling.

Koh said, however, that it was heartening that at least one judge in the three-man panel had disagreed with the unilateral conversions of Indira’s three children by her ex-husband.

The lawyer also expressed disappointment that although non-Muslims are often assured that their rights under the Federal Constitution would be protected, this was more dependant on how jurisprudence is applied by judges.

“It appears now… that this very protection is rendered meaningless, so that a mother of a child can have her baby being taken away and she’s not given access to the child for seven years,” he added, referring to Indira’s case.

In a 2-1 decision today, the three-judge panel at the Court of Appeal headed by Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi overturned an Ipoh High Court’s previous ruling that declared unilateral conversions unconstitutional. Read more

Civil courts have no jurisdiction over conversions, defer to Shariah Court

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Indira Gandhi at the Court of Appeal today. Her former husband abducted one of their three children and earlier, unilaterally converted them to Islam. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, December 30, 2015.

The Court of Appeal, in a majority ruling today, held that the validity of conversion of three children by their Muslim father could only be determined by the Shariah Court.

The appellate court, saying that the Ipoh High Court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the conversion, reversed a lower court’s order quashing the unilateral conversion of the three children to Islam.

The three-man bench, headed by judge Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi, said taking the subject-matter approach, the conversion has to be decided by the religious court.

Concurring with Balia was Datuk Dr Badariah Sahamid.

Judge Datuk Hamid Sultan Abu Bakar in his dissenting judgment said that the conversion was purely an administrative matter.

He said the conversion was done by the Registrar of Conversion but did not comply strictly with the law.

“The law states that the child must make the application and the father must consent,” he said.

Here, he said, the father made the application.

“So the entire exercise was a nullity from the beginning,” Hamid added. Read more

I belong here too – Azrul Mohd Khalib

Source: The Malay Mail Online

BY AZRUL MOHD KHALIB

DECEMBER 30 ― As we go about celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of another, it is sobering to be reminded of at least 12,000 people in Malaysia who have yet to be recognised as citizens of a country.

Despite more than half a decade since Merdeka and the formation of Malaysia, thousands of people, from infants to adults, have been and continue to be left out of their right to Malaysian citizenship.

For the past week, DHRRA (Development of Rural Resources in Rural Areas) Malaysia and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have held a photo exhibition at Publika White Box highlighting the issue of statelessness in Malaysia and around the world.

Ending today, the exhibition presents a powerful narrative of lost childhoods, missed opportunities, discrimination, endless frustration and a lifetime of despair.  Read more