KUALA LUMPUR, 22 April 2009: The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) will appeal to the Council of Rulers to help resolve the unilateral conversions of minors to Islam.
“We call on the rulers to see that justice and fair play is done,” said MCCBCHST president Datuk A Vaithilingam at a press conference today at the Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields.
The non-Muslim multifaith group also urged the government to institute measures that would prevent syariah courts from deciding on cases involving non-Muslims until the civil courts have done so.
“The civil laws on marriage should be recognised over and above syariah laws in such matters,” Vaithilingam said.
Her youngest child, an 11-month-old baby, was taken away from her by her husband, now known by his Muslim name of Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah, and converted to Islam.
Mohd Ridzuan also converted their two older children, who remain with their mother, merely by producing their birth certificates.
The MCCBCHST wants the 11-month-old to be immediately returned to Indira Gandhi.
Vaithilingam said that the MCCBCHST had decided to approach the rulers as Indira Gandhi’s case would involve the Perak Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIAMP), which is headed by the Perak palace.
According to Vaithilingam, the multifaith council had on 20 April also met with a special government committee — comprising ministers in the prime minister’s department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom and Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S Subramaniam, and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil — to find a solution to this issue.
Vaithilingam said the ministers were “concerned and very sympathetic”.
“They assured me that they were looking for a speedy solution,” Vaithilingam said, adding that the MCCBCHST would contact Koh, who is in charge of national unity, after today’s cabinet meeting to find out whether a course of action had been decided on.
MCCBCHST vice-president V Harcharan Singh stressed that the group was not against Islam, but that the law could not be partial, and should apply fairly to all.
“This is not an isolated case,” Harcharan noted.
In 2007, the Federal Court made a landmark decision in the R Subashini v. T Saravanan case, where it granted the right to Subashini’s husband, who had become a Muslim, to decide their children’s religion according to syariah law.
Subashini appealed but failed to restrain her husband from converting their two children, then aged four and two, to Islam.
Vaithilingam stressed that the issue required a long-term solution, and that the MCCBCHST was against any child conversions.
“Everyone should have the opportunity, at 18, to choose their own religion,” he added.
Indira and son Karan Dinish
Indira Gandhi’s son, Karan Dinish, 11, told a press conference yesterday at the DAP headquarters, “When I [was] born as a Hindu, I want to die as a Hindu.”
Indira Gandhi, who was at the press conference today, said, “Even my son’s opinion was not given any respect. The government said this will take a while. How long?”
She said she had not seen her 11-month-old baby for 22 days.
“Right now, I am not working, and my children have not been to school,” Indira Gandhi said, adding that she hoped that speedy action would be possible.
“I just want to get back to our normal lives,” she said.