Decision on conversion of Loh’s children to be known on May 11

KUALA LUMPUR: A woman whose three children were converted to Islam by her ex-husband without her consent will know on May 11 whether the conversion can be nullified.

The High Court will deliver its decision in a judicial review filed by Loh Siew Hong, whose children were Hindus before the conversion.

Justice Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh set the date after hearing submissions from both parties yesterday.

Loh’s lawyer, A. Srimurugan, had submitted that there was no dispute by the respondents that the conversion of the children, all minors, was done without their mother’s consent.

He said the only issue before the court was the legality of such a conversion.

He pointed out that the Federal Court had ruled that the unilateral conversion of minors to the religion of Islam was illegal, citing the case of Indira Gandhi vs the Perak Islamic Religious Affairs Department director.

However, Perlis state legal adviser Mohd Radhi Abas argued that the correct interpretation of the word “parent” as per Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution meant either mother or father.

Article 12(4) states that the religion of a person under the age of 18 shall be decided by his parent or guardian.

He said there were 13 provisions in the Constitution where the word “parent” or “parents” was used, and these words must be differentiated.

“Parliament had carefully used the word ‘parent’ in the singular or ‘parents’ in the plural in the Constitution.

“It (the Constitution) was passed by Parliament, and echoing the words of (the late chief justice) Tun Abdul Hamid Omar, the court is not the Parliament,” he said.

Mohd Radhi said the difference between the words “parent” and “parents” was not discussed in the 2018 Indira Gandhi case.

Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, who represented the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIPs), submitted that the children’s conversion by their father, M. Nagahswaran, was in line with Section 117 of the Perlis Administration of the Islamic Religion Enactment 2006, which stated that consent from either the mother or father was enough to change the religion of a child to Islam.

Mohamed Haniff also said the use of Indira Gandhi’s case as precedent was “inaccurate” as there was a stark difference between the two cases.

“In Indira Gandhi’s case, the mother was home with her children. In this case, the applicant did not stay with her children for two years.

“During the conversion, the father had stated that the whereabouts of the mother were unknown. Therefore, the issue of consent did not arise,” he added.

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Loh Siew Hong , court , children


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