An inter-faith council has criticised the cabinet as being toothless, as civil servants appear to be defying its decision to ban parents from secretly converting children.

“Was the cabinet’s decision in April 2009 a flash in the pan to pacify non-Muslim Malaysians because of the numerous cases of such gross injustice?

“Does this cabinet decision bear any weight at all, or do civil servants do as they wish?

“Would other civil servants be enabled to do likewise with directives from the prime minister and his cabinet?” said Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Taoism (MCCBCHST) in a statement today.

They were responding to the most recent case where a woman in Negri Sembilan has discovered that her two children, minors, have been converted to Islam by her estranged husband without her consent.

In April 2009, the government barred such secret conversion of children after the flare-up over the case of an ethnic Indian woman, who faced losing custody of her three children when her estranged husband converted them to Islam without her consent.
'Will the non-Muslim parent get justice?'
The council also questioned why matters such as the issue of custody was never discussed with the newly-converted parent by the officer conducting the conversion of the two children?

“Is it not mandatory or at least pragmatic and fair for the officer converting underage children to verify custody and other issues from their newly- converted parent?

“Can and will the conversion of the children be reversed as it was premised on untruths?”

The MCCBCHST also wants the authorities to answer the following:
  • ln making this decision, was the government thinking of the best interests of the children?
  • Will the non-Muslim parent get justice?
  • Will the civil courts abdicate their responsibility on a “misinterpretation” of Article l21(1A) of the federal constitution? Article 121(1A) prevents the civil courts from interfering with the decisions of the syariah courts.
  • Will police ensure the enforcement of the decision of the civil court, should it “have the courage to maintain the rights of a non-Muslim spouse and the children in her custody in a civil marriage”?
  • Will the lslamic authorities then, too, abide by the law?
In the Negri Sembilan case, the 29-year-old mother from Jelebu lodged a police report after the Islamic Affairs Department had refused to entertain her appeal for a reversal of the conversion the children, aged five and eight.

Although estranged, the couple remain legally married under civil law.

However, state Islamic Affairs Department director Johani Hassan had on Sunday said that, under the laws of the state, only the consent of one parent who has embraced Islam is needed to convert their children to Islam.