PM: Putrajaya may ban unilateral child conversions

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Source: Malay Mail Online

Najib Razak giving a press conference during UMNO Supreme Council meeting at UMNO Headquarters, Menara Dato’ Onn, Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) on January 30 2018. Via Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 — The government will consider re-introducing a legal amendment to ban unilateral child conversion to Islam, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today after a landmark court ruling in M. Indira Gandhi’s case.

The prime minister was referring to Section 88A of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act that the government had withdrawn before passing amendments to the law last August.

Najib also said the decision of the Federal Court — which nullified yesterday the conversion of Hindu mother Indira’s three children to Islam that was done by her Muslim convert ex-husband without her consent — should be respected despite differences in opinion on the ruling.

“It is very difficult to please everyone, but it is important for us to ensure that we respect the system, the process, and that the decision was made in the best interest of all Malaysians.

“We have our own judicial system in the country, and we have to accept whatever the decision made by the apex court,” said Najib at a press conference after an Umno supreme council meeting here.

Yesterday’s Federal Court decision sets aside the Court of Appeal ruling in 2015, which had upheld the conversion of Indira’s children, and follows the High Court that in 2013 allowed her application to set aside their conversion.

A five-judge panel led by Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin unanimously ruled that the Registrar of Muallafs (Muslim converts) had acted beyond its “limits of power” in registering the children as Muslims when conditions for their conversion were not fully met.

In a separate statement today, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the matter will be raised to Cabinet, as the apex ruling trumps all previous decisions.

Azalina, who is the de facto law minister, said the government’s previous decision to drop Section 88A, which had banned unilateral child conversions to Islam, was to ensure the reform did not contradict the Federal Constitution.

Indira’s two elder children, Tevi Darsiny, 20, and Karan Dinish, 19, can now proudly declare their Hindu identity, after she fought for the nullification of their conversion without her consent for the past nine years.