It takes two to tango – or convert

The recent move by the Government to pass a Bill to allow any one parent to convert an underage child could have led to many problems. It’s a good thing that cool heads prevailed and a solution acceptable to all is now being sought.

Dorairaj Nadason, The Star 

THIS is the true story of a relative. Many years ago, she was a young, attractive and impressionable girl.

And she fell in love with a handsome, dashing young man who drove flashy cars and had money to throw.

One thing led to another and they were married. In due time, a son was born.

And then came the nightmare.

The man decided he did not love her any more.

So, there was the divorce and a custody battle.

It went to court and the court gave custody to the mother.

One day, though, he came to the house, took the child and disappeared. A frantic search for the child began.

A few days later came the striking blow. He had converted to Islam and converted the child as well – and people were telling the girl that she had no more rights over the child as she was not a Muslim. She is a Hindu.

She was not going to be denied, though. She went back to the civil court – and won a ruling that she still had custody over the boy, because he had, in fact, been kidnapped from his legal parent.

Still, she could not afford to smile. The man and the child were missing.

For a year, using friends and private investigators, she scoured the country from Penang to Johor and in little towns like Kampar to find him.

The boy, meanwhile, was missing pre-school, being kept locked up indoors in various homes and being moved around the country.

To cut a long story short, she finally managed to get him back, and in school.

And both mum and boy are happy together now.

It was this story that came to my mind when the recent Administration of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 was introduced.

It was scary that any one parent could convert a young child arbitrarily.

It may be okay if it is done with good intentions – but what if it is done just to spite the other party?

Spite, I believe, should not be and is not part of any religion.

There are also other converts I know. Back in my school days, an 18-year-old classmate was bent on embracing Islam.

His parents tried very hard to stop him. And classmates had long chats with him.

But he was adamant. He had read up on the religion and had had discussions with knowledgeable Muslims.

He felt the religion was a wonderful one and that he knew what he was doing. And he became a Muslim.

Now, that, we all have to respect.

Another friend, also a Hindu, chose to become a Christian after seeing the good work that churches did.

His wife and children chose to follow.

In fact, I think it was the children who got the whole thing going. Nothing wrong there, either.

But it seems wrong in cases of people like Siti Mariana Abdullah.

This 24-year-old claims she was converted by her mum, who had remarried a Muslim, when she was just 15. All her siblings remain Hindu.

She fled her mother and stepfather after a couple of years and lived with her siblings.

With a family like that, she claims she acted as a Hindu in all matters and even married one.

Now, with a child on the way, she is in limbo.

She is Muslim because she was converted as a child and, thus, her child will be Muslim. But the father of the child is Hindu.

Unless he too converts, he cannot claim the child as his – or even have his name on the birth certificate. That’s a real quandary.

There is more to my relative’s story. She remarried and had another child – a daughter.

That marriage, too, ended in divorce. And guess what, the second husband has since become a Muslim.

However, in this instance, he made no move to convert the daughter.

Now, his Muslim wife’s children and his Hindu daughter are friends.

In fact, now that the long, acrimonious tussle has been over for many years, the children of the first husband who brought so much tears are also on good terms with their half-sister and half-brother.

They are all growing up happily. So, there can be a happy ending, if only there is a bit of compromise.

Which is why I am glad that the Bill that faced much opposition has been withdrawn for now.

The Deputy Prime Minister has promised that the Bill will stay withdrawn until the agreement of all stakeholders is received.

With that little bit of compromise, there can be a happy ending in Parliament too.

There is just one twist to the story. The first husband? He had never converted. It may well have been an elaborate hoax to deny the mum custody. Now, that would be spiteful.