| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 6 Jan 2016 | Asia Samachar |
Just as the 2015 was coming to a close, Malaysia’s Court of Appeal released a ruling on a conversion case that has gripped the attention of the people for some time now. Like other minorities, it has implications on Sikhs in this nation of 27 million, as well.
In a 2-1 majority ruling, the court held that the validity of conversion of three children by their Muslim father could only be determined by the Shariah Court.
As for now, the case is giving the Shariah Courts an upper hand in being the arbiter for conversions to Islam. In Muslim-majority Malaysia, the decision is seen as a source of concern to some segments of the population, especially those from the minority faiths.
The case involves kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi and her ex-husband Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah, formerly known by his Hindu name K. Patmanathan (Pathmanathan a/l Krishnan v Indira Gandhi a/p Mutho).
Lawyer Philip Koh, who was holding a watching brief for the council, said the decision meant that the spouse in a civil law marriage could unilaterally convert a child without the permission or knowledge of his estranged partner.
“This is a sad day for minority faith communities,” he told reporters after the appellate court delivered its ruling, reports The Malay Mail Online.
The appellate court, saying that the Ipoh High Court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the conversion, reversed a lower court’s order quashing the unilateral conversion of the three children to Islam, reports another local news portal.
The three-man bench, headed by judge Balia Yusof Wahi, said taking the subject-matter approach, the conversion has to be decided by the religious court. Concurring with Balia was Dr Badariah Sahamid.
There was abuse in the shariah process when a Muslim convert ex-husband changed his three children’s religion to Islam without their mother’s knowledge, says Court of Appeal judge Datuk Hamid Sultan Abu Backer in a dissenting judgment [see report here].
In an immediate response to the ruling, Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) wants the Cabinet to implement a 2009 decision to prevent converted Muslim single parents from changing the religion of their underage children, reported The Malaysian Insider on 30 Dec 2015.
MCCBCHST vice-president Jagir Singh said that decision must be acted upon or else there would be individuals who would capitalise loopholes in the law to escape responsibility
“Otherwise, the rakyat will suspect that the government is not sincere in its pledge to stop unilateral conversion,” he tells the news portal.
COURT OF APPEAL JUDGMENTS
(Pathmanathan a/l Krishnan v Indira Gandhi a/p Mutho, Court of Appeal, 30 Dec 2015)
MAJORITY JUDGMENT: Conversion: Majority Judgment, Court of Appeal, Malaysia
DISSENTING JUDGMENT: Conversion: Dissenting Judgment, Court of Appeal, Malaysia
What is the message for Sikhs and other minorities in Malaysia? We invite any Sikh lawyers, or of any faith for that matter, willing to write on the implications of the ruling. Please send us a Facebook message or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
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