Muslim groups upset with religious conversion ruling

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, The Malaysian Insider

Pembela, a coalition of Muslim NGOs, today condemned the cabinet’s recent decision on religious conversion of children, calling it unconstitutional and irrational.

The Muslim NGO’s criticism of the decision could prove tricky for Datuk Seri Najib Razak as he attempts to balance the interest of Muslim and non-Muslim groups.

The cabinet recently decided that children should be raised in the faith of their parents while they were married even if one spouse becomes a Muslim.

“We totally disagree because of the way they made the statement. Unless there are amendments to the constitution then the statement made is not law.

“However, they have made it seem that when a minister says something then it is law, This is one of the issues which can bring doubts to some parties,” said Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia’s president Yusri Mohamad.

He told reporters that the decision made goes against Islamic laws and the constitution.

“In article 12 section 4 in the constitution, the faith of a child who is not yet an adult is determined by the parents. The courts has interpreted that the parents has to right to decide regardless if they are the husband or wife,” Yusri added.

Pembela believes the cabinet ruling will deny the parent who converts to Islam his or her right and responsibility over the future of the children. They feel that the decision is not fair to those who want to convert to Islam

The group also feels that the government was rushed into making a decision on the issue when it should have been conducted properly with collaboration of all parties. The group reiterated that this issue should not be sensationalized because it would not be healthy for the country.

“We should address it professionally with a cool head and objectively. We have procedures and processes in place. I would like to highlight that there has been a high level discussion organized by the attorney general.”

The government had asked the attorney general to hold a series of discussion with religious experts and NGOs.

“I would like to ask what has happened to those discussions? Why did the cabinet suddenly make a decision which actually is hard to accept by everybody. What was recommended by the cabinet is not sustainable,” he argued.

Yusri urged all parties to consider the realities of the country and not have an attitude that will make the situation worse. He was disappointed that many Malaysians think that a non-Muslim would not be able to get a fair trial in a Shariah court.

“This is not helpful and we will not be quiet if the Shariah court is given that image. The notion that a Shariah court will not give a fair trial to non-Muslims is a blatant and an unacceptable accusation,” he said.

Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM) president Zaid Kamaruddin also added that the decision was one sided and pleased only a minority in the country.

“The cabinet has not taken account the opinions of the majority. We also would like to complain that the decision was irrational. We understand the Muslim’s fuse is a bit long, that is why there are many who are still patient because they believe that the government can solve this issue.”

“But in this context, we see that it going against Islam and we have yet to receive a reaction from the Cabinet after the incident has happened. This is not a solution to this problem,” Zaid said.