Perlis to ban unilateral conversion of minors

Dec 17, 2016
M. Indira Gandhi (left) with S. Deepa, and Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin (insert).
M. Indira Gandhi (left) with S. Deepa, and Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin (insert).

The Perlis Islamic Council (Maips) is set to ban unilateral conversion of a minor to Islam by either parent.

It will seek to gazette a decision by the state fatwa committee last year to impose the ban, vernacular Sin Chew Daily reported.

Perlis ruler Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail had apparently consented to the decision.

In revealing this, state Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said His Majesty Raja Perlis believed that once the fatwa had been gazetted, it would prevent unilateral conversion of a child.

Asri said Tuanku Raja Perlis was aware of anxiety among non-Muslims over an amendment in the state law, which was supported by Umno and PAS assemblymen.

The Perlis state assembly changed the Bahasa Malaysia version of Section 117 of the Administration of Islam Enactment 2006, from “father and mother or guardian” to “father or mother or guardian”, allowing a Muslim convert parent to change their children’s religion to Islam without consent from the non-Muslim spouse.

Asri assured non-Muslims that they had nothing to worry.

“The Islamic principles will never force a person to convert against his or her own will,” he said, adding children’s willingness to convert was the most important factor.

“Their parents cannot force them to convert as this is seen as a form of coercion. Under civil or syariah laws, coercion is not allowed.”

The Perlis Fatwa Committee had among others ruled that the rights of custody of a child should not be based on the parent’s religion.

“Instead, it is handed over to he/she who is able to ensure the children’s benefit more in terms of the moral, emotional and development,” an English-language version of the committee’s decision states.

The controversial unilateral conversion of children to Islam caused an uproar among non-Muslims in the country following high profile cases of S. Deepa and M. Indira Gandhi.

Both women’s estranged husbands converted to Islam and converted their children to Islam without their knowledge.

Both women are now embroiled in a prolonging legal wrangle of custody battle with respective husbands