‘Conversion Bill based on existing guidelines’

The Cabinet will heed the criticism leveled at amendments of the Bill, which allows for unilateral child conversions to Islam. 

Anisah Shukry, FMT

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin today acknowledged there were “issues” in the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 tabled in Parliament last Wednesday.

But he defended the move by stressing that the Cabinet had used “several guidelines” in assessing and ultimately approving the Bill, which allows unilateral conversion of minors to Islam, to be tabled in Parliament.

“The cabinet has discussed this in detail and we understand there must be a fairer decision but we also understand that in the current situation, there have been several guidelines that we used,” said Muhyiddin in a press conference today.

“One of them is the court’s decision on a previous case and the second is the Malaysian constitution. So that is the jurisdiction of power we have today.”

The Bill has drawn flak from multiple corners, including Barisan Nasional component parties MIC and MCA, as the word “parent” instead of “parents” in the amendment makes it legal for a sole guardian to convert children below the age of 18 to Islam.

MCA vice president Gan Ping Siew had slammed the “stealthy” tabling of the amendment in the Federal Territories Islamic law, according to news portal Borneo Insider.

“I am shocked to learn that the government is tabling the Bill as it contains controversial provisions that affect the constitutional and religious rights of the non Muslim,” he was quoted as saying.

“This will seriously and irredeemably affect the religious harmony and national unity of our country.”

Muhyiddin said today: “We take heed of the criticism, we understand that there are a few matters that have become the focus of the public’s attention

“We will take into consideration the views of certain quarters, including BN component parties MCA, MIC and others who have voiced out the same issue. We will act based on the policies made.

But when a reporter pointed out that the amendments to the Bill contradicted a 2009 Cabinet decision to ban unilateral conversions of minors to Islam, Muhiddin said: “yes, but this is the latest [developments].

“We will examine this carefully and [Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Islamic Affairs] Jamil Khir Baharom will make an announcement when the time comes,” he said.