PETALING JAYA: Nine years ago, there was a case known as R. Subashini versus T. Saravanan in which the husband converted to Islam along with the elder of the couple’s two sons.
The outcome was a landmark judgment by the Federal Court which ruled that any one parent had the right to convert a child.
Muslims Lawyers Association president Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar cited this case to show that the proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act are unconstitutional.
The Federal Court, he said, had interpreted the Federal Constitution to mean that unilateral conversions was allowed with the consent of just one parent.
“Thus, the proposal to amend the Act to reflect that both parties must consent to the conversion is unconstitutional,” he said.
He said the Federal Constitution would have to be amended before the any changes could be made to the Act.
Furthermore, he said the proposed amendments could not alone solve unilateral conversion problems as there were state laws related to Muslims.
“For Muslims, the state laws matter,” he said.
Zainul Rijal suggested that the Government create a tribunal court to resolve cases involving conversions.
“These issues could be resolved through mediation,” he said.
Lawyer M. Kulasegaran, who is representing M. Indira Gandhi in her case where she is questioning her children’s conversion to Islam, said the amendments should be debated and passed at this current Dewan Rakyat meeting itself although it was due to end on Thursday.
“Many Malaysians are suffering in silence, especially those children who have been converted to Islam by a parent,” he said.
“They are caught in this scenario and are unable to move on with their lives.”
He said Indira Gandhi had filed many cases in court, adding that one of these had been in the courts for over seven years.
“I am meeting a team of lawyers who are involved in this issue to discuss this in detail and its effect in full,” he said.
The Shariah Lawyers Association of Malaysia said that any such amendment should not penalise new Muslim converts.
Its president Musa Awang said the proposed amendments would give rights to the non-Muslim partner to seek a legal remedy in the civil court but no such rights would be given to the Muslim partner.
“Any amendment should consider the rights of the new convert and his or her rights as a Malaysian citizen,” said Musa.
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