Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Unilateral conversions of minors allowed: Jamil Khir

11:12AM Jun 18, 2014 by Ram Anand ( Malaysiakini) 

Unilateral conversions of minors allowed: Jamil Khir 

The federal government maintains that the unilateral religious conversion of a child by either one parent is allowed by the Federal Constitution and thus does not plan to amend any laws in the near future to change the situation.

In a written parliamentary answer today to M Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat), Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom said consent from either one parent is enough for such a conversion according to Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution.

"According to the federal constitution, the religion of a child under 18 years old can be decided by either one parent alone," he said.      

The minister’s stance today clashes with a 2009 cabinet decision banning unilateral conversion of minors by just one parent.

Former de facto law minister Nazri Abdul Aziz (right) had then said the relevant laws would be amended while a national committee formed on the matter directed that "all children of a converted parent shall be raised in the same faith prior to the parent’s conversion".

However, the relevant laws have not been amended till today.

Contradicting answer

Jamil Khir's answer also seems to contradict his reply to a similar question posed by Gobind Singh Deo (DAP-Puchong) regarding the matter just seven days ago, when the minister said that the cabinet is still studying a mechanism to solve unilateral conversion and interfaith custody battles.

"The prime minister must not remain silent in this matter and he must immediately clarify what is the cabinet's position," Kulasegaran (left) said in a press conference later today.

He said that if the cabinet is still committed to the 2009 ruling, Najib must be prepared to "commit" a date when the necessary legal changes will be implemented.

"Did the cabinet make a U-turn on the 2009 ruling? If so, when did they make the U-turn?" he asked.

On July 5, the cabinet agreed to withdraw the controversial Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Amendment Bill 2013, which has been tabled for its first reading in Parliament.

The bill stirred a hornet’s nest for providing that the permission of one parent alone is sufficient to convert a minor.

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