The government has been urged to uphold its promise to amend laws to stop parents from converting their children to another religion merely for the sake of winning custody after their separation.

The promise was made by the cabinet in April 2009 but no action has been taken until now to amend the relevant laws, DAP national vice-chairperson and Ipoh Barat MP M Kula Segaran said today.

NONE"In April 2009, the cabinet decided that children (are to) remain in the religion of the parents at the time of their marriage, should one of them later decide to convert to Islam.

"It also decided that outstanding issues in a marriage must be settled before conversion, to prevent the children from becoming victims.

"But until today, the government has failed to table amendments to the three laws - the Islamic Family (Federal Territories) Law 1984, Administration of Islamic (Federal Territories) Law 1993 and Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976," Kula said in a statement.

As a lawyer who has appeared in cases involving inter-religious custody disputes, Kula said the government has also not given any indication as to when these laws would be amended.

He was commenting on the case of a woman in Negri Sembilan who has discovered that her two children, of minor age, have been converted to Islam by her estranged husband, without her consent.

This was done after her husband had converted to Islam. The couple, according to a report in The Star, are separated but still married under the civil law.

The Star also reported the Negri Sembilan Islamic Affairs Department as saying that the law allows minors to be converted to Islam with the consent of only one parent.

'We must learn from Indonesia'

Kula, who has also acted on behalf of Indira Ghandi, whose children were converted to Islam without her consent, said he has raised this matter in Parliament before, but to no avail.

Despite winning custody of her three children through the civil court, he said, Indira has not seen or been given access to her youngest child for four years now.

This was because Indira's estranged husband was insisting that the syariah court has jurisdiction over conversions and has therefore refused to abide by the civil court order.

"There must be no further delay on this. I call on the prime minister to address the issue of inter-religious custody problems resulting from conversion to Islam...

"It has to be noted that Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, has no problem relating to conversion cases. We have much to learn from the Indonesian authorities!" Kula added.