No more negotiations, amend the law, Malaysian interfaith council tells Putrajaya

Malaysia Insider

Putrajaya has been urged to relook two memorandums submitted 10 years ago by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) to address the on-going problems on conversion issues plaguing non-Muslims.
The interfaith council’s president Jagir Singh said the memorandums contained proposed amendments to the law to deal with conversion issues.

Putting it bluntly, Jagir said negotiations between non-Muslim and Muslim groups are not going anywhere.

“Parliament must amend the laws to deal with conversion cases,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Jagir said the council had submitted the memorandums in 2005 and 2007 following the decision of the Federal Court that Lina Joy, a former Muslim, must get permission from the Shariah Court before the state could recognise her as a Chrisitan.

Jagir said the council had also highlighted the cases of S. Shamala and R. Subashini, whose former Hindu husbands converted to Islam and later converted their underaged children without the knowledge and consent of their wives, and obtained custody through a Shariah Court order.

Following this, Putrajaya urged MCCBCHST and a Muslim group to sit down and come to an understanding on resolving issues arising from conversions.

“Both groups were asked to assist Putrajaya in proposing amendments to laws to see that unity in multi-racial Malaysian was not threatened.

“However, we could not come to a meeting point to break the deadlock,” said Jagir.

He said the council had taken the position that any dispute where one of the parties was a non-Muslim should be referred to the civil court.

“The Muslim group, however, was against this. They held the view that the dispute should be determined by a Shariah Court.

“It was a deadlock and negotiations ended there. In the meantime, more conversion-related cases are cropping up.”

Jagir, who is also a lawyer, said it was time for Putrajaya to introduce amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 to stop spouses from using conversion to Islam to run away from their responsibility.

He recalled the statement in April 2009 by former de facto law minister, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, which said the Cabinet decided that children should remain in the religion of their parents at the time of the latter’s marriage if one of the parents decided to convert.

It even declared that the government would ban parents from secretly converting children, and that outstanding issues in a marriage should be settled before conversion to prevent children from becoming the victims.

Nazri revealed last year that the government had proceeded to table a bill on these matters but it was delayed by the Conference of Rulers.

Jagir said even the Federal Court had pronounced that the civil court should deal with divorce, custody, maintenance and division of property, although one party converted to Islam, as the marriage was solemnised under the LRA.

He added that it was clear that only Muslims could appear in Shariah Courts.

“The Cabinet has made its stand and the highest court has stated the legal position. So Putrajaya should table the amendment in Parliament in order to bring a stop to this problem,” he said.

Jagir was referring to the latest controversy involving clerk S. Deepa, who was given custody of her two children by the High Court in Seremban on April 7.

A Shariah Court had earlier given custody of the children to her former husband, Izwan Abdullah.

On April 9, Izwan abducted one of their children, Mithran, despite the recent custodial order by the High Court.

Last week, Ipoh Barat MP M. Kula Segaran urged the Parliament to decide on the conversion issue as non-Muslims were governed by federal laws.

“However, it has been five years since Nazri’s statement and nothing much has taken place,” said Kula, who represented M. Indira Gandhi, whose husband converted to Islam and subsequently converted their three children before claiming custody over them at the Shariah Court.

Kula, who is DAP national vice-chairman said Putrajaya’s failure to provide a permanent solution has led to non-converting parties suffering as a result.

Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang is also in support that the laws must be clear to ensure the Shariah Court could not have jurisdiction to convert minors without the consent of both parents.

“The Shariah Court should also not have jurisdiction to grant custodial rights of minors who are converted without the consents of both parents,” said Tan, urging both Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional MPs to work together to enact laws to remove the overlapping jurisdiction. – April 15, 2014.

Source: MSN News