Translating Policy Into Practice

The media reports that the cabinet has decided that children of marriages where one spouse subsequently embraces Islam would remain in the faith that the parents had agreed on at the time of marriage. The cabinet has also appeared to decide that the civil courts are to dissolve such marriages.

These decisions are welcome ones. They indicate willingness on the part of the administration to deal with issues that have for some time now been studiously avoided, a state of affairs that had prompted the establishment of the coalition of NGOs calling itself “Article 11” and its “Equal Protection For All” campaign in 2006.

The decisions also indicate the policy position of the current administration, one that on its face appears to adhere to the constitutional guarantees of equality and the right of parents to choose the religion of their children. The Constitution guarantees the right of a parent to decide the religious instruction of a minor child. The Constitution provides that words in the singular are to be understood to include the plural, parent being “parents”. By virtue of this and the guarantee against discrimination on grounds of gender, it is clear that the intention was to vest guardianship rights in both parents. This is reinforced by federal law.