Court dismisses appeal by Muslim-convert mother over conversion of children to Islam

The Court of Appeal has upheld an earlier High Court decision to quash the unilateral conversion of a Muslim-convert mother’s two children to Islam and says it is bound by the decision by the Federal Court in the case of kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi.

(Malaysia Now) – The Court of Appeal today dismissed the appeals by a Muslim-convert mother and the Federal Territory Registrar of Muallaf against a High Court’s decision to quash the unilateral conversion of her two children to Islam.

A three-member bench led by justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah in a unanimous decision said the Court of Appeal was bound by the Federal Court’s decision in the case of kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi.

“We are of the view that the High Court judge and this Court of Appeal are bound by the Federal Court’s decision in Indira Gandhi’s case.

“We find no appealable error made by the learned High Court judge. Therefore, we find no merit in these appeals. Both appeals are dismissed. The decision of the High Court judge is affirmed. No order as to costs,” Zabidin said at the virtual proceedings today.

The other two judges were S Nantha Balan and Nordin Hassan.

On Oct 16, 2018, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur allowed the judicial review by the father of the children, a Buddhist, to quash the unilateral conversion to Islam of his two children born in a civil marriage by the woman who was a Buddhist at the time.

Then High Court judge Azizah Nawawi who is now a Court of Appeal judge had said that it was not in dispute that the certificates of conversion of the children were issued without the consent of the children’s father.

She said she was bound by the Federal Court decision in the Indira Gandhi case in which the Federal Court’s five-man panel in January 2018 ruled that the consent of both parents is required before a child born in a civil marriage can be converted to Islam.

In that case, Indira, a Hindu mother had filed a similar judicial review application to challenge her Muslim convert ex-husband’s unilateral conversion of their three children.

In today’s matter, the father of the children had filed a judicial review to quash the conversion of his two young children who were converted to Islam in May 2016 without his knowledge and consent.

The identities of the family cannot be disclosed due to a High Court order issued on May 21, 2018.

The Court of Appeal’s decision in September 2018 which granted full custody of the children to the father was affirmed following the mother’s failure to obtain leave to pursue her appeal in the Federal Court.

Lawyer Nizam Bashir represented the Registrar of Muallaf, while senior federal counsel Nik Isfahanie Tasnim Wan Ab Rahman appeared for the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department director-general, the education ministry director-general and the government.

Lawyer K Shanmuga represented the father, while lawyer Arham Rahimy Hariri appeared for the mother.