Media Statement by M Kula Segaran, DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat in Ipoh on Sunday, June 9, 2013
Call on the Prime Minister to address the issue of inter religious custody problems resulting from conversions to Islam
The plight faced by S Deepa of Seremban as reported in the media has again shown the urgency for the government to resolve the issue of religion of children when one of the parents chooses to convert to a different religion.
Deepa, from Negeri Sembilan, alleged that her children have been converted into Islam without her knowledge by her husband on April 2013.
She said her lorry-driver husband N Viran, 30, left her and her children 16 months ago and never supported her or their children financially.
Deepa told the media that on April 4, this year, she to the kindergarten to pick up her son, Mithran, 5. He was not there and she was told that her husband had taken him away.
Coincidently she went to Pusat Dakwah Islamiah Negeri Sembilan in Paroi to collect the confirmation letter of Viran’s conversion into Islam to submit to the court for a divorce.
She was shocked to see Mithran and her eight year old daughter, Sharmila, with her husband at Pusat Dakwah Islamiah Negeri Sembilan.
An argument broke out between her husband and her when she found out that he had converted Sharmila and Mithran without her knowledge and permission.
Deepa is not the first and only person to suffer such pain and plight.
M Indira Gandhi of Ipoh too faced such similar pain and plight when her husband converted to Islam and subsequently converted their three children before claiming custody over them at the Syariah court.
I have been helping her in her legal battle to obtain custody of her three children and also to declare the conversion of the three children , who are all minors, to Islam is illegal.
To date, we have succeeded in getting custody of the three children. Notwithstanding successfully getting custody of the three children in the civil court some 4 years ago, her husband Pathamanathan has refused to return the last child and Indira Gandhi has not seen this child since she was taken some 4 years ago.
The other two children are with I.Gandhi. The husband still maintains that only the Syariah Court has jurisdiction over the conversion and thus ousting the Malaysian civil courts.
I have raised the issue of inter religious custody battle in Parliament and I wish to remind the government that there must be no further delay in passing legislation to ban conversations to Islam as a means to gain custody of children.
In fact, in April 2009, the Cabinet had decided that children remain in the religion of the parents at the time of marriage, should one of them decide to convert to Islam. It also decided that outstanding issues in a marriage must be settled before conversion to avoid children from becoming the victims.
But till today, the government has failed to table amendments to three laws — the Islamic Family (Federal Territories) Law 1984, Administration of Islamic (Federal Territories) Law 1993, and Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.
Neither has the government given any indication of when the laws will be amended.
It has to be noted that Indonesia which has the biggest Muslim population in the world has no problems relating to conversion cases. We have much to learn from the Indonesia authorities!
There must be no further delay and I call on the Prime Minister to address the issue of inter religious custody problems resulting from conversions to Islam.