‘Divorce first’ rule move in proper direction

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MALAYSIA: The decision by Negri Sembilan, one of the states in Malaysia,  to compel a spouse in a civil marriage to divorce first if he or she wishes to become a Muslim, is being closely followed by all local religious groups.

“We are waiting to see the wording proper, but this seems to be a move in the right direction,” Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) president Jagir Singh.

“Sikhs are equally affected, just like people from the other faiths,” he told Asia Samachar.

In a news report yesterday (6 Feb 2015), The Star front-paged a report entitled ‘Divorce first, convert later’. The report says:

Any married person wanting to embrace Islam will first have to divorce his or her spouse under a law to be introduced in Negri Sembilan. The convert would then have to make a statutory declaration that he or she was now a Muslim.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the move was to safeguard the sanctity of the religion.

The state Islamic council (Mains) was incorporating these provisions into the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Negri Sembilan) Enactment 2003, he said. 

He said this would also ensure that there were no aggrieved parties in the event that an individual converted before dissolving his or her civil marriage.

“There have been too many controversies regarding this and it must stop. We cannot allow people to mock Islam or criticise Islamic authorities because of the actions of a certain individual,” he said.

The breaking story was written by the newspaper’s Negeri Sembilan bureau chief Sarban Singh.

The Star front page (6 Feb 2015) on Negri Sembilan decision on married converts to Islam - divorce first, then convert
The Star front page (6 Feb 2015) on Negri Sembilan decision on married converts to Islam – divorce first, then convert

In a follow-up story today (7 Feb 2017) entitled ‘Negri ruling on conversion hailed’, the newspaper reported that support continues to pour in for the Negri Sembilan government’s decision to compel a spouse in a civil marriage to divorce first if he or she wishes to become a Muslim.

Interfaith groups, women’s rights advocates, G25 and individuals want other states to follow suit but some are also asking what would happen if the non-converting spouse does not want a divorce.

The report quoted Jagir as saying it was only fair that converting spouses from a civil marriage fulfilled their obligations under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 first, adding that the council welcomed the proposal as it would help avoid the problems faced by non-converting spouses.

He added that the provisions would also prevent any overlap in the jurisdiction of the Syariah and civil courts.

In the same report, former Malaysia Hindu Sangam and past council president Datuk A. Vaithilingam said much anguish, pain and unhappiness was caused when one party converted without dissolving his or her civil marriage.

“Civil and Islamic laws are different and painful results have been created – R. Subashini, S. Shyamala, Indra Gandhi and S. Deepa are good examples of this.”

Selangor Mufti Datuk Mohd Tamyes Abd Wahid said Islam had been degraded and insulted by others because of the conduct of some converts.

“Making those who want to convert to Islam tie up loose ends first and openly declare their religious status would be ideal,’’ he told the newspaper.

“If Negri Sembilan sets a precedent with this new law, and since it’s something good, other states may want to do the same.’ – ASIA SAMACHAR (7 Feb 2015)

 

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. Go to www.asiasamachar.com]

1 COMMENT

  1. One step that will resolve some issues but leave others to be decided by the courts. This relates to the custody of children, the right of the child to religion, child support, visitation rights,property matters and many others. If the father or male decides to convert and being the main bread winner is given the custody of the child new issues would arise. The divorce process under the Marriages and Reform Act takes time, what happens during this process? There is a need to look at the issue from macro perspective to arrive at a comprehensive solution.

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