“In the context of Malaysian law, whether civil or Syariah, we want to uphold justice and ensure that the rights of all parties are maintained and upheld.
“In that manner, any law to ban unilateral conversions is against Clause 4 of Article 12 in the Federal Constitution, which allows for conversion of a person under 18 years old by either the child’s mother or father,” he said in a written reply to M. Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat) in Parliament yesterday.
Kulasegaran had asked when the laws banning unilateral conversions would be drawn up.
To that, Jamil Khir said while the Government continued to uphold Islam as the official religion in line with the provisions under the Federal Constitution, it was also aware of the multiple cases of unilateral conversions of minors.
In the case of R. Subashini and T. Saravanan, the Federal Court ruled that based on Clause 4 of Article 12 in the Federal Constitution, any one parent had the right to convert a child, he said.
In a landmark judgment in 2007, the Federal Court ruled that the conversion of Subashini’s older son by her Muslim convert ex-husband Saravanan, albeit under the Selangor Enactment, did not violate the Federal Constitution.
Jamil Khir insists unilateral conversion constitutional
Source: The Malay Mail Online [23 May 2016]
KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — Islamic affairs minister Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom told Parliament that unilateral conversions were lawful and guaranteed under the Federal Constitution, even as the Cabinet is seeking ways to address the matter.
In a written reply, he said the constitutional article on religion expressly permitted such a practice.
“In line with that definition, the laws to ban unilateral conversion contravenes Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution which states the religion of a minor under the age of 18 can be determined by their respective mother or father,” he said in the parliamentary reply.
He was responding to Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran, who had asked what steps the government was taking to stop individuals from unilaterally converting their children for their “personal agendas” and also when laws would be created to ban unilateral conversions.
The Cabinet decided in 2009 to ban unilateral conversions, although the decision has no legal implication.
Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution states that “for the purposes of Clause (3) the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian.”
Jamil Khir also cited the Federal Court verdict in the case of R. Subashini, where the Federal Court ruled in 2007 that her husband – who had embraced Islam – had the right to convert their children to his faith without her consent.
The minister acknowledged the continued interfaith disputes arising from the practice, but said the government must protect the “sanctity of Islam” in line with the Federal Constitution that states it is the “religion of the Federation.”
Article 3 of the Constitution states that “Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.”
One such high-profile case came before the Federal Court last week, when Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi was allowed to challenge the validity of the unilateral conversion of her three children by her Muslim convert ex-husband Muhammad Riduan.
The case is the culmination of the interfaith custody battle between Indira and Muhammad Riduan that began in 2009.
The Cabinet decided in 2009 to bar the unilateral conversion of children, but the proposed legal amendments to enforce this were later shelved following the intervention from the Conference of Rulers hours before they could be tabled in Parliament.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said this year his Cabinet is looking into ways to resolve interfaith child custody conflicts between Muslim and non-Muslim parents, but needed time to seek the Rulers’ views.