KUALA LUMPUR, 23 April 2009: The uncertainty over forced conversion of children is finally being put to rest — the cabinet has decided that in the event of any dispute, a child must be raised in the faith professed by both parents at the time of marriage.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the decision was one of the long-term solutions discussed by the cabinet yesterday.
“Conversion must not be used as a ground to automatically dissolve a marriage or to get custody of children,” Mohamed Nazri told a news conference here today, adding that many more cases like that of Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah and his wife, Indra Gandhi, were expected in the future.
Mohd Ridzuan or Patmanathan Krishnan, 40, a Muslim convert who used to be a Hindu, was reported to have converted his children — Tevi Darsiny, 12, Karan Dinesh, 11, and Prasana Diksa, 1 — to Islam on 12 April and applied for custody at the Syariah Court although their mother is still a Hindu.
In the event of a dispute following the conversion of a spouse, Nazri said the cabinet decided that “A child’s religion must be in accordance to the common religion at the time of marriage between the parents.”
He said any individual who wanted to convert to another religion must resolve all problems regarding his responsibilities before converting, to avoid innocent parties, especially the children, becoming victims.
He said the cabinet also decided that if a marriage was done under the civil court, it could only be dissolved under the civil law. The minister also said conversions will no longer be retrospective, meaning that people could not use a change in religion to escape alimony and custody rulings ordered by a civil court.
“Do not use religion, for instance Islam, as a tool to run away from responsibility or to escape from a marriage, as this will bring a bad name to the religion,” he said.
He said the cabinet also agreed that the relevant date of application of the Islamic law to any Islam converts was the person’s conversion date.
Nazri said the Attorney-General’s chambers would be asked to look into all relevant laws that needed to be amended, excluding the syariah law which were under the power of the rulers.
As a short-term resort in Mohd Ridzuan’s case, Mohamed Nazri said, he had asked the Minister in charge of religious affairs in the Prime Minister’s Department, senator Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom, to meet Mohd Ridzuan to counsel him. — Bernama