KANGAR: Pas assemblyman Mohd Shukri Ramli voiced support yesterday for an amendment to a bill allowing unilateral consent of either a mother or father for the conversion of children under 18 years old to Islam – despite objections from PKR Indera Kayangan assemblyman Chan Ming Kai.
The Sanglang assemblyman had seconded the Islamic Religion Administration Enactment (Amendment) 2016 Bill.
Under the amended enactment, the word “ibu dan bapa” (mother and father) was changed to “ibu atau bapa” (mother or father) in the Malay version.
The English version of the enactment states “parent”, referring to subsection 117(b), which reads that a (child) who is not a Muslim may convert to Islam if he is of sound mind.
Chan stood up to oppose, while MCA’s Khaw Hock Kong was seen leaving the House when the Bill was tabled.
Chan argued the move shows that the government endorses unilateral conversion for children under 18 years-old by either one of the parents, without knowledge or agreement from the other.
He stressed that if the matter is under the Federal constitution, it would lead to chaos, whereby both parents could keep changing their child’s religion.
He added that the court only interprets the law, but legislators carry the will of the rakyat in passing the law.
“The bill for the amendment of Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA), which aims to help resolve interfaith custody conflicts between Muslim and non-Muslim parents, has been tabled in Parliament.
“It will include a new provision for the religion of the child where Section 88A (1) reads that if a parent converts to Islam, the religion of their children shall remain the same, unless both parents have agreed to the conversion of the children to Islam.
“Having said so, the state government appears to be heading backwards with the Religion of Islam Enactment (Amendment) 2016.
“We should have at least waited until the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA) is passed,” he said while debating the state’s 2017 Budget, tabled by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man yesterday.
Meanwhile, Azlan when met after the winding-up session, explained that the amendment in the Malay version does not affect the content, as the court has been referring to the English version of the enactment in proceedings.
He cited the example of the decision from the case of R. Subashini vs T. Saravanan, where the term “parent” in the Federal Constitution is deemed ‘singular’ was adopted.
“It is just a change of a word to ensure it tallies with the English version of the enactment, which use the word “parent” instead of “parents”,” he said. The bill was subsequently passed after 13 out of 15 assemblymen seconded the motion.
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- Indira, lawyers hail proposed law against unilateral child conversions [21 Nov 2016]
- Nazri: Divorce law reforms will end unilateral child conversions [2 Sep 2016]
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