Introduce more ways to resolve conversion issue, urge lawyers

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 10 Dec 2016

PETALING JAYA: Problems caused by the unilateral conversion of a non-Muslim child to Islam by a newly-converted Muslim parent cannot be resolved through state or federal laws alone, said the Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia.

Its deputy president Abdul Rahim Sinwan said apart from involving religion, the matter was also linked to the issue of federal versus state powers.

“Parliament can pass laws, but ultimately, each state has authority and autonomy when it comes to Islamic affairs in their respective borders,” said Abdul Rahim.

He suggested that instead of relying merely on laws to resolve the arising problems, the authorities should consider introducing additional mechanisms such as mediation, where parents involved in such cases can seek to resolve their problems.

On whether a newly-converted Muslim parent can take their child to Perlis or other states with similar provisions in order to unilaterally convert their child to Islam, Abdul Rahim said no state will forbid a person from applying to its Islamic Affairs body to embrace Islam.

Malaysian Syarie Lawyers Association president Musa Awang said applications to embrace Islam were processed based on the address of the applicant.

Asked whether this meant that a parent could change his MyKad address to a state such as Perlis in order to unilaterally convert his or her child, Musa said the legal provisions served merely as a basic guide, but it will be up to the implementing agencies to decide the best method and mechanism when it comes to processing applications.

On whether state enactments such as the one in Perlis will be void in the event that Parliament approves the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Bill 2016 (LRA) which contains a provision that conversion of Islam needs approval of both parents, Musa said:

“The LRA has not been approved by Parliament, so the various state enactments are still in force.”

Asked whether the amended Perlis enactment would go against its jurisdiction if the LRA was passed, Abdul Rahim said what Perlis had done was in line with the Federal Court’s ruling in Subashini v Saravanan (2007), where it ruled by a majority of 2-1 that any one parent had the right to convert a child.

“Therefore to me there is no question of whether what Perlis did is ultra vires the Federal Constitution,” said Abdul Rahim.

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