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“Non-Muslim child cannot be arbitrarily converted to Islam”

IPOH, 11 June 2009: The call to Islam is a willing and conscious submission, hence it cannot be forced upon anybody, including the conversion of a child or minor to Islam.

The director-general of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) Datuk Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas said this was because the ability to think and reason was a vital element for a non-Muslim to choose whether to become a Muslim.

“A child who has not reached ‘umur baligh’ (age of maturity) cannot be burdened with the responsibility of accepting something he does not understand as his faculties of reason are still immature.

“Therefore, it is unreasonable to say that one can simply convert a child,” he said in his keynote address titled Crisis in Religious Thinking at a discourse held at the Perak Institute of Islamic Administration here today.

He said a person who converted a child to Islam was actually forcing the child to accept the burden of responsibility when Allah did not command such a burden be placed on the child who had not reached the age of maturity.

Syed Ali said conversion of a child to Islam also did not guarantee that he would remain a Muslim as the decision to accept and practise the religion depended on him alone.

“The responsibility of a Muslim father is to educate his children on the religion and when they reach the age of maturity, they can make their choice,” he said.

The cabinet had in April decided that the children of a couple where one spouse had converted to Islam be raised in the religion the couple professed at the time of their marriage.

The decision was made to resolve the religous conversion issue with the case involving a man from Ipoh, K Pathmanaban, a Muslim convert, who  converted his three young children to the religion without the consent of his wife, who did not convert. — Bernama

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One Response to ““Non-Muslim child cannot be arbitrarily converted to Islam””

  1. Gopal Raj Kumar says:

    There are some disturbing claims being made in this article if the author to whom the quotes are attributed did in fact make such statements. And if he did, then it certainly represents a paradigm shift in the way by which people may now profess their faith and may be authority as to how the constitution of not just Malaysia but any other secular state may now be read.

    All children (or minors) in any jurisdiction are deemed not to have capacity to make decisions of any legal or moral significance concerning their own personal or moral welfare.

    Where such a presumption is not presecribed in legislation, it is at least part of convention given legal force anywhere save and except in circumstances where divine authority is concerned. Simply put the vexed and divisive subject of religion that is.

    By admissions of the DG of the Institute of Islamic Understanding in Malaysia, the vast majority of Muslims (and when applied in a generic context) all adherents to religions are therefore inappropriately brought into the faith.

    “A child who has not reached ‘umur baligh’ (age of maturity) cannot be burdened with the responsibility of accepting something he does not understand as his faculties of reason are still immature”.

    He does not here say that the child cannot or may not be converted but instead suggests (my words) that a child must not be “burdened…….still immature” and I believe there would be universal acceptance of the last part of that statement, “still immature”.

    How then does a child become imbued with the moral codes that determine their understanding of right and wrong which aid in their gradual orientation and assimilation into society as useful and productive members?

    Burdening a child with an education whether religious, secular or purely technical is a parent’s and a responsible state’s obligation.

    Children cannot be at play all their lives. Perhaps it is that immature perception that they should be at play at all times that has spawned a generation of belly buttoned studs, tattooed and mobile phone weilding parents with little idea of responsibility or community consciousness, that spawns another generation with little or no direction or purpose in life apart from the next generation of mobile phone, credit card or flat screen TV.

    Of greater significance is the second part of the DG’s statement as quoted in this article. It is unreasonable (no legal sanction here) that one can simply convert a child. Touche!

    But what’s really disturbing is that Parliament could possibly reach a decision as they did in the case of K Pathmanaban. How could one possibly decide what religion (and presumably under legislative authority) a child of a marriage must be raised in? And the insensitivity and illogical direction that they be raised in the discarded and abandoned religious beliefs (no longer subscribed to or believed in) by one of the two parties?

    Has Parliament by doing so created a precedent whereby it may compel people to believe in what they do not believe in. After all, religion, and faith by definition, are a belief in something for which there may be evidence but no proof is it not?

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