Fool me twice, shame on you, is the feeling on conversion bill 

(TMI) – If the Bill allowed for one parent to covert a minor, then the other parent can convert the child back, under provisions in the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. 

When the Government brought to Parliament on Wednesday the most controversial bill in recent times, it not only raised the backs of a lot of people, it also sank their hearts.

Mention the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Bill to them and they will mention back a new buzzword to describe the Government’s motives and it’s not a nice one.

Betrayal. Of non-Muslims. And for some, twice.

And it’s the depth of this feeling that may also inform the election patterns of non-Muslims in the “safe deposit” vote bank of Sabah and Sarawak. Not to mention the already evenly-split Indian vote.

Just examine the facts.

In April 2009, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz announced that the Government would ban the automatic conversion of minors to Islam, in a bid to quell unease among non-Muslims in mainly Muslim Malaysia.

He said minors were to be bound by the common religion of their parents at the time they were married, even if one parent later becomes a Muslim. 

And now, this Bill purports to provide that the consent of one parent alone is enough for the conversion of minor children to Islam.

The “Allah” issue is another hot topic, especially now, since the government’s appeal is going through its rounds of case management at the Court of Appeal.

The Government is appealing against the 2009 High Court decision that the word “Allah” can be used by the Catholic Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur’s weekly newspaper, The Herald, in its Bahasa Malaysia articles.

In April 2011, just before the Sarawak elections, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Idris Jala announced that Christians in East Malaysia can use that word.

However, in April this year, PM Najib Razak in an interview with global news station Al Jazeera took the opposite tack. He clearly expressed support for the appeal to overturn a High Court ruling that said it was all right for non-Muslim groups in Malaysia to use the Arabic term “Allah” for God, specifically in Bahasa Malaysia literature.

Coming back to the conversion bill, there is another thought. Talk is also rife that just the act of tabling the Bill was itself a strategic move by the government to seek out weak links in the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat.

Perhaps PAS parliamentarians may decide to vote in support of unilateral conversion of minors, against the line drawn by their secular partners in the opposition?

A veteran politician, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that if that is what the Government is trying to do, it might backfire.

This is a double-edged sword, as even government coalition partners MCA and MIC have both made their stand clear – that they are against unilateral conversion – let alone their non-Muslim bumiputera coalition partners from Sabah and Sarawak.

“It will expose the weak chains in the Barisan Nasional coalition when issues of race and religion are put to the test like this,” the MP said.

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