Vote against ‘conversion’ Bill, MCA MPs told

M. Indira Gandhi’s children converted to Islam by her husband without her permission 

( – An MCA leader has called on the party’s MPs to vote against the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill in the Dewan Rakyat because of the inclusion of a controversial provision on conversion.

The  provision allows a child to be converted to Islam with the consent of only one parent.

“I implore on all our seven MCA MPs to vote against this Bill,” said MCA central committee member Loh Seng Kok.

“Better yet, I urge all the seven MCA legislators to corral the MPs from other political parties irrespective of political coalition to put forward a collective voice against this clearly one-sided Section 107(b),” Loh said in a statement today.

He added that he may raise this issue at the central committee “to reaffirm our party’s official stand against unilateral conversion of minor children by one parent”.

The Bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat for its first reading on Wednesday.

Loh, who is also MCA deputy publicity chief, said Section 107(b) appears to undermine Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution which reads that “the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian”.

He noted that the need for both parents’ consent is reinforced in Article 160(1) of the 11th Schedule which says that “words in the singular include the plural, and words in the plural include the singular”.

Also, Article 8 states that “there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion…”.  

Further Article 12(4) also provides that for the purpose of Clause (3), the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian.’

“MCA re-emphasises that if a religion of a minor child is disputed, the minor’s faith remains as status quo at the time of his birth until he reaches the age of maturity which is 18 years,” said Loh.

“On a deeper realm, besides running ultra vires the Federal Constitution, Section 107(b) in the Bahasa Malaysia version calling for ‘ibu atau bapa or penjaga’ appears designed to undermine the Federal Constitution and trap non-Muslims into conversion issues,” he added.

Loh noted that in 2009, the Cabinet had decided that if either spouse were to convert to Islam, the children should follow the faith that the parents had agreed on at the time of marriage, or implied by their common religion.

“I implore on the lawmakers to mandate this decision into a law be it in the Federal Constitution, Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Child Act 2001, Guardianship of Infants Act 1961 (revised 1988).

“Separate incidents have shown that as the Cabinet decision is not etched in law, one parent has rushed his/her minor child(ren) to religious authorities who duly converted them without informing the spouse – this going in direct conflict against the Cabinet decision,” he added.