Bishop says bill on minors' conversion a litmus testCatholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing described the proposed amendments to the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) on the conversion of minors as a "flagrant violation of the equality of persons' provisions of the federal constitution".
The amendments, tabled in Parliament earlier this week, by dint of the use of the word 'parent' instead of 'parents', makes it legal for a father or a mother, or guardian, to convert children below the age of 18 to a religion of proprietary choice.
Bishop Paul Tan wondered if there was not an element of diabolism in the intent of the framers of the amendment who he said knew that the word 'parent' can also be construed as a collective noun like 'crowd', and hence, when push comes to shove, they could limit its meaning to one of the two progenitors - father or mother - or a guardian.
"This shows the mala fide of the framers of the amendments," he argued.
"I understand this amendment contravenes a decision by the cabinet announced on April 23, 2009 that a single parent cannot convert a minor," said the head of the Catholic Church in the Melaka-Johor diocese.
"If so, this would not be the first time that the cabinet is overridden by civil service functionaries - the main drivers of creeping Islamisation in this country," charged the Jesuit-trained prelate.
"Truly, it does not come as a surprise to me that a cabinet undertaking on a matter of this importance has been shown to be not worth the vapor it takes to avow it," expatiated the bishop.
Commitment to gender equality
"What would come as a surprise is the way the vote would go in Parliament because there are legislators in the House who have signed on to gender equality in their election manifestoes," he reminded.
"The proposed amendment clearly violates this commitment to gender equality so that the way those signatories vote on this bill would be a test of whether they will match deed to word. Failure to do so would expose them for the imposters they are," warned the bishop.
He also noted that the proposed amendments provide for the Syariah High Court to determine whether a person is a Muslim or not.
"This power to determine whether a person is Muslim or not has always resided with the civil High Court so that the proposed shifting of this onus on to an Islamic jurisdiction is further evidence of not just creeping, but galloping Islamisation which is a matter of the gravest concern to non-Muslims," he argued.
Bishop Paul Tan warned that the vote on the bill will be a litmus test of the fidelity to the Federal Constitution of legislators elected to Malaysia's 13th Parliament.
"I fully support the Malaysian Consultative Congress of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism and the Christian Federation of Malaysian in their opposition to this bill," he said.