State policy on unilateral conversions

By Deborah Loh, The Nut Graph

The DAP wants the cabinet to discuss the issue of unilateral conversion of children to Islam by one parent, and for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to issue a policy statement about it.

DAP national adviser Lim Kit Siang said the issue was an old one, and the failure to act immediately to resolve such cases contradicted Najib's promise of "One Malaysia, People First, Performance Now".

Lim was speaking at a press conference today about the recent case of kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi, 34, whose three children have been converted to Islam by her 40-year-old husband, whose Muslim name is Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah.

The children, Tevi Darsiny, 12, Karan Dinish, 11, and Prasana Diksa, one, were converted by their father who used their birth certificates, without the children themselves even being present.

"These are old issues and it has not been the only case," Lim said at the DAP headquarters.

DAP Sungkai assemblyperson A Sivanesan, who was also at the press conference with Indira Gandhi and her two older children, said over the last three weeks, the Perak DAP office had received reports of two cases of unilateral conversions of underage children to Islam.

Apart from Indira Gandhi's case, the other involved another Hindu couple, where the mother converted the children aged eight and seven without the father's consent.

Sivanesan noted that in recent years, there have been several other similar cases, as well as "body-snatching" incidents where the body of a deceased person is withheld by the Islamic authorities even though his or her conversion to Islam is disputed by family members.

Lim today also criticised Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S Subramaniam from the MIC for saying that it would "take a while" before Indira Gandhi's case could be resolved.

Subramaniam said in a news report that time was needed because several agencies were involved.

"If one parent objects to the conversion (of the children), then the child should not convert but wait until the age of 18, the age of consent," Sivanesan said.

Sivanesan said spouses who used syariah law after becoming Muslims to unilaterally convert their children were "taking the easy way out", leaving the non-Muslim spouse with no remedy.

He also noted that the previous Barisan Nasional administration under Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had recognised this problem but failed to do anything about it.

"I've got no hope, frankly, [that anything will be done at all]," said Sivanesan, who first highlighted the case and is the DAP's legal adviser on it.