KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has no plans to amend any laws relating to conversion of children under the age of 18 to Islam by either one parent.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution clearly stipulates that conversion of a child below 18 can be determined by a mother, father or a guardian.
Citing the case of Shamala Sathiyaseelan v Dr Jeyaganesh C. Mogarajah, Jamil Khir said the Federal Court had decided that the faith of a child under 18 could be decided by either parent.
“Based on the ruling of this case, the consent by either one party suffices in the issue of deciding the religion of a child because the word used in Article 12(4) is parent or guardian, not parents or guardian.
“Therefore, all parties are subject to the existing laws which are enforced as the Government has not made any amendments to the provisions,” he said in a written reply to M. Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat).
Kulasegaran had asked when the Government would implement a 2009 Cabinet decision which was against the unilateral conversion of minors to Islam.
At a press conference in Parliament, Kulasegaran asked if the Government had made an about turn on the 2009 Cabinet decision.
He said there Jamil Khir’s current reply contradicted an earlier reply to Gobind Singh (DAP-Puchong) on June 11.
On a question of the steps being taken to resolve the issues of civil divorces and custody rights where one spouse converts to Islam, Kulasegaran alleged that Jamil Khir had replied that the Government was “still studying” the mechanism.
“Jamil Khir’s answer has not only contradicted the reply given to Gobind but he also contradicted the April 2009 Cabinet decision” said Kulasegaran.
In light of the two cases on interfaith custody battles between parents, I must say that I disagree with Minister Jamil Khir's stand on the Child Conversion Law, there should be a judicial review of the Federal Court ruling, it must be amended to make both parents or custodian to agree to the conversion, because if it is not, then its likely one of the non Muslim feuding parents have found a loophole to keep custody of their under 18 Children when they are divorced. (i.e. one convert to Islam while the other do not)
This in turn will create endless problems for the authorities and every one connected, when one party goes to Civil Court and the other go to Syariah Court to obtain custody and both courts decide to award custody.