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MCA and Ong should demand that cabinet makes a decision preventing any conversion of a child to Islam unless consent is obtained from both parents
by Lim Guan Eng
(Melaka, Monday): The government’s maintenance of the status quo by renewing the annual permit of the 13 year old Herald - The Catholic Weekly newspaper to continue printing its Bahasa Malaysia section with no restrictions on the use of the word Allah for God, is a step in the right direction. However the controversy over its initial refusal to renew the publishing permit unless the word Allah was dropped because Allah is exclusively reserved for reference to the Muslim God, was completely unnecessary and shows the extremist nature of government officials handling issues of such sensitive nature. More so when the word Allah has been used without any complaint or problems for the past 50 years.
Such maintenance of the status quo is merely preserving and defending existing rights and a lot still has to be done to restore our constitutional right to freedom of religion lost as a result of several Federal Court decisions such as the Lina Joy case and the recent Subashini case. The Lina Joy case barred the right to freedom of conscience and religion by Muslims to convert back to their original religion effectively making a Muslim or a convert a Muslim for all eternity.
The Subashini decision is more pernicious in that it allows a Muslim parent who has just converted to convert his or her children without the consent of the other non-Muslim parent. This is a great step backward that not only denies the right of freedom of religion but also the constitutional and biological right of a parent over their children.
This is a great step backward that will only encourage a divorcing couple fighting over custodial rights of their children to convert to Islam to gain an advantage in securing custodial rights over the other parent. Despite such negation of the rights of non-Muslim parents, DAP is shocked that MCA has openly endorsed supported and welcomed the Federal Court ruling.
What is the point of civil court having jurisdiction to hear and decide on matrimonial disputes involving a spouse who has converted to Islam when it will take no action to prevent that converted spouse to also convert their children. Ong Ka Ting should read the judgement in full and realize that the impact of allowing such unilateral conversion by any parent regardless of objections from the other parent. The other non-Muslim parent will not be able to re-convert the child out of Islam. The child will also be deprived of its right to convert out of Islam at the age of 18.
By changing a child's religion without the consent of both parents will cause much heartbreak. Worse is that Subashini’s case has effectively lost custodial rights of both hers sons (where one is converted whereas the other remains unconverted with the mother) if the father proceeds with the conversion. Under Islamic law, a non-Muslim parent has no rights over a Muslim child.
DAP unreservedly condemns such support by Ong and MCA in denying the biological right of Subashini as a mother. All non-Muslims should open their eyes and realize that in support of UMNO’s Islamic state, Ong and MCA are willing to sacrifice the parental rights of non-Muslims just to preserve their government positions. Ong should retract his support and demand in Cabinet decision barring any conversion of a child to Islam unless consent is obtained from both parents.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP