PETALING JAYA: The conversion of two Hindu children to Islam in Negri Sembilan without their mother's consent is unconstitutional, the Bar Council said.
Citing the Federal Constitution, Bar president Christopher Leong said one parent did not have the right to convert the children without the other's knowledge.
“The unilateral conversion of minors to any religion by a parent, without the knowledge or consent of the non-converting parent, creates social injustice, violates the rights of the non-converting parent, and is contrary to our constitutional scheme,” he said in a statement.
He was commenting on a news portal report that S Deepa, 29, from Jelebu, discovered that her husband, who left her 16 months ago, had converted their two children without her knowledge.
The husband alleged that Deepa had been having an affair with another man and could not take care of her children.
Leong said the Constitution ensured that no one was required to take part in any ceremony or worship any other religion than their own.
He said the Constitution determined that a minor's (under 18 years) religion was to be decided by both parents, in cases where they were both alive.
“Accordingly, unilateral religious conversions of any minor children in breach of this are unconstitutional,” he said.
Leong cited a Cabinet directive by then Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz who said that the children of an estranged couple were to remain in the religion of their parents at the point of their marriage.
He pointed out that the Negeri Sembilan Islamic Affairs Department had stated that the consent of both parents was not needed to convert children of those who embraced Islam.
He was there was “confusion” in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Constitution, adding that the word “parent” had been translated as “ibu bapa” until 2002, after which it was used as “ibu atau bapa” (mother or father).
He called for the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Constitution to be corrected, and for the Government to amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 to assure that the consent of both parents was needed before minors were converted to another religion.