Tweak Federal Constitution to be in line with Islamic law, mufti suggests

(MM) – Parliament should amend the Federal Constitution to make it a better reflection of Islamic law, Pahang Mufti Datuk Abdul Rahman Osman said today in the wake of a row over the conversion of minors to Islam.

Conservative Muslims have been pressuring the government to push through its bill to amend the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) to allow a single parent who is Muslim to convert his or her child who is below the age of 18.

“If we see any Acts in conflict we must discuss again, review until it fulfils syara’,” the senior cleric told Sinar Harian Online, and added, “… perhaps the Constitution should be amended if it doesn’t follow syara’ or Islam.”

The Najib administration withdrew last week its proposal to formalise the unilateral conversion of minors into federal law, which it had tabled in the Dewan Rakyat just days earlier after drawing widespread complaint by non-Muslim groups as unfair and disagreement from some ministers.

Section 107(b) of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 was introduced in Parliament on July 3.

Leaders from both sides of the political aisle have openly opposed the proposed amendment, including Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz, the minister who had announced the Cabinet prohibition on unilateral child conversion in 2009, speaking out against a proposed law that aims to defeat the decision from four years ago.

In 2009, as then minister in charge of law, Nazri had said the government would ban the unilateral conversion of those aged below 18 to Islam.

Several other conservative Muslim clerics have insisted that any child whose parent embraces Islam must follow suit, but Abdul Rahman’s remarks appear to take the matter a step further.

However, he said his suggestion was in accordance to the country’s supreme law.

“From what we understand, the official religion of the federation is Islam, so what has to be done has to go back to Islam,” he was quoted as saying by the Malay news portal.

“If we follow federal law if the child has not passed 18 years of age even though he has reached the end of puberty he cannot change his religion, but in Islam according to the syara’, if the mother or father is Muslim, the child must follow the Muslim mother or father,” Abdul Rahman reportedly said.

Custodial tussles in cases of unilateral child conversions have been a growing concern over the years and provide a high-profile glimpse of the concerns of Malaysia’s religious minorities over the perceived dominance of Islam in the country.

It also highlights the complications of Malaysia’s dual legal systems where Muslims are bound by both civil and syariah laws, the latter of which do not apply to or recognise non-Muslims.