Malaysian interfaith council welcomes minister’s statement that no unilateral conversion allowed

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Press Statement | Putrajaya, Malaysia  | 3 Sept 2016 | Asia Samachar |

statementMCCBCHST: We welcome Minister’s statement that no unilateral conversion allowed

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) welcomes the Federal Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz’s statement today (2 Sept 2016 – Malaymail Online) that the proposed reforms will essentially see the cabinet abiding by its April, 2009 decision which requires both Parents’ consent before a child of civil marriage can be converted to another religion.

The MCCBCHST’s consistent stand has been that to ensure justice and to abide by the constitution, there can be no unilateral conversion of minors, that is, both parties to the marriage must consent before a minor can be converted to another religion.

This is the first time since 2009, that a Cabinet Minister has stated that the Cabinet Decision of April, 2009 will be adhered to. The MCCBCHST lawyers had attended meetings with the AG Chambers in 2010 and later attended meetings in 2012 and 2014, where the proposed amendments still allowed for conversion of a minor of a marriage by a single parent. Thus, there was a deadlock as MCCBCHST could not agree to such unilateral conversion being allowed.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia promises to amend marriage law to address conversion issues

SEE ALSO: Conversion ruling in Malaysian court affects all, Sikhs included

Both Indira Gandhi’s and Deepa’s cases, fought through the courts for the last 7 years, in the face of tremendous personal anguish, had won first major battle in Deepa’s case, where a 5 member Bench had delivered judgement on 10-01-2016 stating that “ the Civil Court had the exclusive jurisdiction to grant decrees of divorce of a civil marriage under the LRA (Marriage & Divorce), 1976 and to make all other ancillary orders including custody care and access of the child born out of that marriage and all other matters ancillary thereto ”. The Federal Court had further stated it would be an abuse of the process for the spouse who has converted to Islam to file for dissolution and for custody of the children in the Syariah Courts.

With DECISIVE decision in Deepa’s case above, the only thorny issue left was whether a single parent could convert a child of marriage without the other parent’s consent.

This issue of unilateral conversion is directly up in Indira Ghandi’s appeal to the Federal Court which will be heard on 14 & 15 November 2016.

Now, with the announcement by the Federal Minister that the Cabinet would abide by its April, 2009 decision where unilateral conversions were not allowed, it appears then that Indira Ghandi’s appeal on this case may become Academic, if  indeed what the Minister has said is passed as law.

The MCCBCHST again welcomes the Federal Minister’s statement regarding the requirement of consent of both parents before a child of marriage could be converted. This is a just solution. Otherwise, as the MCCBCHST, has warned all along that the problem will persist even for the next 100 years, if a single parent was allowed to convert a child of marriage.

The MCCBCHST is confident that if unilateral conversion, which has been the root-cause of problem in the past, is done away with then cases like Indira Ghandi & Deepa will be resolved in the future.

Indira Ghandi & Deepa’s cases:

Whatever course is taken to resolve conflict arising from unilateral conversion, either through Cabinet Sanctioned Bill or through success in Indira Ghandi’s coming appeal in November, 2016, both Indira Ghandi and Deepa deserve to be recognised as Icons of Motherhood for having stood steadfast in their struggle to ensure that other women will not face the same anguish they faced. History must record their struggle to fight for the rights of a mother and a non-converting spouse.

 

JAGIR SINGH

Vice President, Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), Joint Chairman, MCCBCHST Legal Panel

 

[This press statement is dated 2 Sept 2016. Jagir is also the current president of the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council, MGC. In February 2016, the Malaysian Prime Minister appointed him to continue serving on the main governing body of the Committee for Interfaith Promotion of Understanding and Religious Harmony]

 

[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]

RELATED STORIES:

Malaysia promises to amend marriage law to address conversion issues (Asia Samachar, 27 Aug 2016)

Interfaith council welcomes Malaysia’s Federal Court decision on demarcation of civil/syariah courts jurisdiction (Asia Samachar, 11 Feb  2016)

Conversion ruling in Malaysian court affects all, Sikhs included (Asia Samachar, 6 Jan 2016)

MGC passionately protects religious rights of Sikhs, others in Malaysia (Asia Samachar, 19 Nov 2015)

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Interfaith body lauds Nazri’s assurance on end to unilateral conversion

    SOURCE: MalaysiaKini, Published Today 12:52 pm Updated Today 1:16 pm

    The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) has welcomed Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz’s statement that amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and divorce) Act 1976 will do away with unilateral conversions.

    “The MCCBCHST’s consistent stand has been that to ensure justice and to abide by the constitution, there can be no unilateral conversion of minors.

    “That is, both parties to the marriage must consent before a minor can be converted to another religion,” said its vice-president Jagir Singh in a statement.

    This, the group said, is consistent with the cabinet’s April 2009 decision that requires both parents to give consent before a child of a civil marriage can be converted to another religion.

    Jagir noted this is the first time since 2009 that a minister has stated that the earlier cabinet decision will be adhered to.

    He related that MCCBCHST lawyers previously faced deadlocks in meetings with the Attorney-General’s Chambers in 2010, 2012 and 2014, where the proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) 1976 (LRA) still allowed for the unilateral conversion of a minor.

    “MCCBCHST could not agree to such unilateral conversion being allowed,” he stressed.

    Long wait for justice

    Jagir mentioned two cases, that of non-Muslim spouses Indira Gandhi and S Deepa, whose husbands converted to Islam, which have been fought through the courts for the last seven years.

    In Deepa’s case, the contention was over the matter of the dissolution of marriage and child custody under a civil marriage when one spouse converts to Islam.

    Indira’s case meanwhile concerns unilateral conversion of children conceived under a civil marriage.

    Jagir said in Deepa’s case, the court had delivered judgement in January that “the civil court had the exclusive jurisdiction to grant decrees of divorce of a civil marriage under the LRA and to make all other ancillary orders”.

    The Federal Court had further stated it would be an abuse of the process for the spouse who has converted to Islam to file for dissolution of the marriage and for custody of the children in the syariah courts.

    Jagir posited that with the decision in Deepa’s case, the only thorny issue left was whether a single parent could convert a child without the other parent’s consent.

    The courts meanwhile have to decide in Indira’s appeal to the Federal Court on the status of her children’s conversion by her convert husband.

    The case, Jagir said, will be heard on Nov 15, although he hoped Nazri’s announcement may render the matter academic, if indeed what the minister has said is passed into law.

    End to loophole hoped

    MCCBCHST expressed its confidence that if the unilateral conversion loophole is closed off, then there would be no more cases like Indira and Deepa in the future.

    Indira’s and Deepa’s cases are landmarks in the fight by MCCBCHST and those who are seeking to ensure that unilateral conversions will not take place to the detriment of the non-Muslim spouse, who at present find they have no locus standi to challenge any arising legal decision in the syariah courts.

    This is because some Muslim converts from a civil marriage have used the loophole of unilaterally converting their children to Islam, and then proceeded to file motions of custody in the syariah courts where their non-Muslim spouses do not have the standing for legal representation.

    Yesterday, Nazri told a news portal that the LRA amendments will eventually do away with the thorny issue of unilateral conversion.

    http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/354525

  2. MGC and others should wait for actual implementation as there have been similar statements in the past which were later nullified by those with influence and differing views.

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