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.
The press conference was called to address the predicament faced by M Indira Gandhi, 34, whose three children have been converted to Islam by her 40-year-old husband without her consent.
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.
See also: Amend law to stop unilateral conversion of children
What is it that the Islamic Officials from MAIS or Jakim are trying to accomplish? Forced conversion by one party, especially by divorcing couples or a secretly converted party brings untold misery to everyone related to them. Why should the convert be so afraid to announce publicly? Was the husband, in this case, ashamed of his conversion or did he do it secretly as a speedy means to cover his illicit affair while he was still married? Or was it out of revenge and being plain nasty to spite his wife? Whatever the reason, I fail to understand how or why Islamic religious officials condoned this conversion without asking any details of his life. Why such speed and haste? Are the Islamic officials that desperate or is this what Islam is all about – a quickie with no questions asked? Are these then the calibre of people that the Islamic religion wants in their fold? Spineless men who blatantly misuse and pawn the religion for their selfish advantage.
Gopal Raj Kumar says
There is a sad irony arising from the conversion to Islam issues of late that appears to have escaped the attention on the scrutiny of the vast majority of us deeply involved in this argument.
Hinduism is not of itself a religion. To be Hindu is to be Indian. The word “Indian” and “India” both being Anglicising of the root word Hindu from the word Indus.
Therefore Hindustan for India (Moghul) or land of Hindus from the word Indus, the river on which banks its civilizations came forth and prospered; or Bharat in Sanskrit.
The British (or all westerners for that matter and Semites) were at a loss to understand the nuances of the rituals of Hindus, all of which have significant connections to the functions of the body, the mind and their collective connection to the environment and the universe.
Branches of Hindusim are purely spiritual in nature and embrace worship of the supernatural. Hence the association (convenient one) of Hinduism with religion.
The Arabs till the 1970s referred to Malays and Indonesians as Indians and not Muslims as far as religion was concerned, because of the indelible mark of Hindu culture on their cultural and religious practices.
The name of many Malays are of Indian origin. Mahathiran or (man of great destiny) Mahathir the former PM of Malaysia. Only the Mohamad component is an Arabic imperative which applies to all Muslims as far as the adoption of a name of a variant of the prophet’s own name is concerned.
Back to the issues here on forced conversions as they are otherwise called. There is nothing that should come in the way of a father’s desire to convert his children to a faith he considers in his wisdom to be for their spiritual well being or in order to assimilate them fully into a culture they have long adopted but are still alien to, appropriate.
In refusing the father that right we are being biased in favour of the mother’s only wish to have them remain “Hindu”.
We cannot have the children make that decision because they do not have capacity (legal capacity) being minors. Which now raises the most vexed question of all. By whose consent did these children become Hindus in the first place?
This is now a battle of rights to assert over minors by two parents and religious bodies should stay out of it.
The mother cannot possibly love them less for being Muslim unless she adopts the strict moral code of Hindus in modern India who persecute Muslims.
The father should not on the other hand use Islam as a tool to antagonise his estranged spouse, where she is in a minority or to further his own personal ambitions.
But families being what they are, these things will always occur. Just like the conversion of non-Christians to Christianity of which millions of Indians and Chinese are adherents to even where it is in stark contrast to their natural cultural leanings.
Amen Amen Amen. Om.