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Cabinet’s conversion decision opposed (Updated 12.35am)

(Updated 30 April 2009, 12.35am)

KUALA LUMPUR, 29 April 2009: The coalition of Muslim non-governmental organisations known as Pembela has described the cabinet decision against unilateral conversion of minors as “knee-jerk” and “lacking in sense”.

“The decision only temporarily alleviates the anxieties of one party, but creates more anxieties and questions for other parties,” Pembela spokesperson Yusri Mohamad said at a press conference today.

Another Pembela spokesperson, Zaid Kamaruddin, said the decision did “not make sense”.

Both men also noted that the cabinet decision was made without consulting state muftis or amending the relevant laws.

Pembela was commenting on the cabinet decision that in cases where one parent converts to Islam, he or she did not have the right to unilaterally convert the children.

The cabinet decision was made following the plight of M Indira Gandhi, whose Muslim-convert husband converted their three young children without her consent. Hers is one of several known cases where such conversion of minors has occurred.

Zaid, who is also president of Pertubuhan Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM), said the cabinet’s directive contradicted existing syariah laws and Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution on determining the religion of minors.

Pembela cited the R Subashini v T Saravanan case, in which the Federal Court interpreted Article 12(4) to allow the Muslim-convert husband to decide the children’s religion according to syariah law.

Zaid said in the case of Indira Gandhi’s children, the cabinet directive violates the right of her estranged husband Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah to have access to the children.

“And what if both non-Muslim parents convert to Islam?” asked Zaid.

“Then, according to the cabinet decision, the child will still need to remain in the common religion at the time of marriage until he or she reaches the age of majority,” he said, adding that this was ridiculous.

Yusri said, “What if in future, it is a mother with a breastfeeding child who converts to Islam? If we follow the cabinet ruling, then the mother will be denied her right to raise her child.”

He said Pembela was willing to mediate a short-term solution between Indira Gandhi and her husband pending a legal resolution to their dispute.

“Let the law be”

Yusri and Zaid said Pembela’s stand was that the due process of law should “be let free to take its own course without any undue pressure from any party.”

“We should not politicise this issue and raise temperatures even further among the followers of different religions,” said Yusri, who is also Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim) president.

“However, if there are any parties who insist on challenging the Federal Constitution, we will not remain quiet,” he added.

He said, for example, that some parties have alleged that the syariah courts would be inherently unjust towards non-Muslim interests.

“This is a blatant, unacceptable accusation against a centuries-old legal system,” he said.

Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association’s Datuk Dr Mustapha Ma stressed that human-constructed laws could not be allowed to override divine laws.

“The respect that Islam teaches for all, including non-Muslims, has been proven in the history of Islam,” he said.

“Besides, the Islamic NGOs have never advocated unfairness or injustice to anyone,” he added.

Pembela is a coalition of more than 50 Muslim NGOs whose formation Abim spearheaded in 2006.

Pembela was formed to counter “the tendency to use court cases to emasculate the status of Islam, particularly through applications for apostasy.”

Islamic state revisited?

In a separate statement, MCA deputy secretary-general and central committee member Datuk Loke Yuen Yow today blasted PAS information chief and Pokok Sena Member of Parliament Mahfuz Omar for also protesting the cabinet’s decision.

Mahfuz had earlier accused the Barisan Nasional (BN) government of appeasing non-Muslim Malaysians and causing discord among Muslim Malaysians with the cabinet directive.

Loke said Mahfuz’s statement reflected that PAS was a pro-Muslim party and their stand repressed the rights of non-Muslim Malaysians.

“This shows that PAS has not abandoned their ultimate objective of setting up an Islamic state,” said Loke.

In yet another press statement, MCA political education bureau chairperson Gan Ping Sieu called on Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and DAP to object to PAS’s stand on the issue.

“If Pakatan Rakyat does not come out to clarify their common stand […] DAP and PKR should be held responsible for their failure,” Gan said.

He also supported the Bar Council‘s call for the cabinet decision to be more fully realised by carrying out the necessary constitutional and legal amendments.

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10 Responses to “Cabinet’s conversion decision opposed (Updated 12.35am)”

  1. Peter says:

    They can’t even give a good reason to oppose and forget about the much bigger implications of the freedom of the children to choose.

    Well, what do you expect from these people who only know their side of the story. They forget that Malaysia is a multi-racial country, not a homogeneous country.

  2. ammended says:

    This is just another political gimmick by the ruling government to create unrest among Malaysians of different races and religions. We have been living in peace with the current law. Let the judges do their work. Furthermore when MCA political education bureau chairperson Gan Ping Sieu called on Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and DAP to object to PAS’s stand on the issue, this definitely confirms my view that this issue is being broughtup with a political agenda by the ruling government. Malaysians, please be smart.

  3. Nadia Ali says:

    My gag reflex is working extra hard right now.

  4. inostupid says:

    Ya la ya la. Same old nonsense. Let the law take its course (only if the law suits me or I’ve changed it to suit me). One parent can decide (only if he is a Muslim) because if one parent can decide and both decisions are not the same then whose decision to follow? January follow father – Muslim … February follow mother – Hindu … March? … Why not draw lots to see who decides?

  5. siew eng says:

    Some Muslims are still propagating the syariah as “divine law”?

  6. corrine says:

    And I am not surprised if the cabinet decision is reversed due to pressure … wait and see lah. These ppl are the ones that incite racism, etc. I’ve never heard any church or temple make noises if any of their followers decided to leave the religion and convert to another. They don’t hold you back or threaten you for not believing. It is your right to choose. Now that is what I call peace-loving, and being just and fair. My opinion only 🙂

  7. Steven Ong says:

    Divine laws? What about other so-called divine laws? Respect that Islam teaches? Islamic NGOs never unfair and unjust to any one?

    With just our intelligence and mind and hearts, we all will know the truth. No need for laws (divine or human), policies, to tell us what is right. Is it right to force one to believe or follow a way that is intangible?

  8. Janell Stroud says:


    If you say the syariah courts can deliver just judgments – back up your statements with the history of earlier cases which were accepted wholeheartedly by the Muslim and non-Muslim parties.

    And also substantiate with records of previous cases that were accepted by all.

    Be careful with what you say and claim.

    It must be fair and not one-sided.

    Show us how it is being done in Kelantan under PAS.

    If you really want the courts to decide, can you guarantee that the courts deliver justice fast – not wait and wait and wait and wait till the other authorities have slowly but surely brainwashed the juniors to ‘accept’ the new faith. Show us examples how the courts acted fast and in a just manner which was accepted by all (both newly converted Muslims and those who remained with their original faith).

    In any case, now that the Federal Court is looking into the matter, why the fuss?

  9. arah says:

    My dear siew eng,

    Yes, it’s divine law, that why the British are practising syariah Law, even judges in Britain have come back to Islam.

    There are 1.5 million in the US who have come back to Islam.

    Malaysians have long way to go and learn about the religion of their neighbour ie Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc. They have to learn from the West about Islam. Why West?

  10. same old says:

    What about not allowing a Malay Muslim to stop being a Muslim? Is that not everybody’s right? What about forcing a person to become a Muslim when he marries a Muslim?

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