“Conversion is not a grounds for the automatic dissolution of a marriage. The children should be brought up in the common religion. For the spouse who intends to convert into Islam, he or she would also have to come clean…The convert would have to fulfil his or her marriage responsibilities according to civil laws prior to the conversion.”
MINISTER in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz on the cabinet’s decision that a spouse who converts to Islam cannot unilaterally change his or her children’s religion. The offspring are to be raised in the common religion of both parents prior to the conversion.
The cabinet took this stand after the media highlighted the case of M Indira Gandhi whose husband converted their three children to Islam without her consent. While Indira Gandhi’s case is one of several similar custody cases involving unilateral conversions, it drew public attention because she was still breastfeeding the youngest child who had been taken away by her husband. (Source: ‘Children of divorced parents must be raised in original religion’, The Star, 23 April 2009)
“I’m not 100% sure what was announced will work. I won’t believe it until their names are changed back to what it used to be and they are declared Hindus.”
Indira Gandhi expressing doubt over the enforceability of the cabinet position against conversions of minors. In March 2010, the Ipoh High Court ordered her husband to return the youngest child but he did not comply and has also filed a stay application against the court order. (Source: ‘Children of divorced parents must be raised in original religion’, The Star, 23 April 2009)
“Will this be a judgment in futility? Why don’t we listen to this case when they return….Isn’t this a political or social problem?… If the judgment cannot be enforced then it will only be a paper judgment.”
Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi, in an exchange with lawyers in the Federal Court which was meant to hear the constitutional questions on child conversions in the case of S Shamala. Shamala’s ex-husband Muhamad Ridzwan Abdullah converted to Islam after their civil marriage, and then converted their two sons unilaterally. Shamala and the boys fled from the country after the High Court in 2004 quashed her attempt to nullify the conversions. She is now in contempt of the High Court’s order to produce her children in court, which Zaki used as reason for the Federal Court not to hear the constitutional questions. He has asked for time for the court to decide whether to proceed.
Meanwhile, Indira Gandhi‘s attempt to quash her children’s conversions is left hanging as a result, since the Ipoh High Court had also decided to wait for the Federal Court’s decision on the constitutional questions in Shamala’s case. And the cabinet’s order to stop unilateral conversions of minors remains an empty promise. (Source: Federal Court puts child conversion case on pause mode, The Edge Financial Daily, 4 May 2010)