PUTRAJAYA, 24 April 2009: To determine the religious status of a child when a parent converted to Islam, one has to look at the Islamic as well as the existing Malaysian laws, said the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) today.
Its director-general, Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, said that under Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution, the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian.
“Based on this provision, the consent of just one party is sufficient in determining the religion of a child because the word used in Article 12(4) is ‘parent or guardian’ not ‘parents or guardian’ which means ‘mother or father or guardian’,” he said in a statement here.
He said Section 95 of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 provides that a child who has not attained the age of 18 years may convert into Islam if his parent or guardian consents to his conversion.
“Among the cases that can be referred to regarding the right to determine the religion of a child is Subashini Rajasingam Vs Saravanan Thangathoray, where the Federal Court ruled that the father had the authority to convert his child to Islam under Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution.”
“This was because according to Article 12(4), the religion of a person below the age of 18 years shall be decided by his mother or father or guardian, therefore in this case the husband had the right to convert his child to Islam even though his wife had disagreed,” he said.
Wan Mohamad said that from the “syarak” (Islamic law) angle, the person with the right to take care and raise a child must be a Muslim because if the person is not a Muslim, there is a worry that it will harm the religion of the child under his care.
He said the rights of a Muslim convert under the law should also be protected, and a person who embraced Islam was not supposed to be considered as trying to shirk his obligations.
Yesterday, the cabinet decided that a child’s religion must be in accordance with the common religion of the parents at the time of marriage even though his mother or father later embraced another religion.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, when making it public, said the decision was among the long-term solutions reached by the cabinet in view of many cases such as the one involving Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah and wife Indra Gandhi being expected to emerge in future.
Mohd Ridzuan, or Patmanathan a/l Krishnan, 40, formerly a Hindu who has embraced Islam, was reported to have changed the religion of his children — Tevi Darsiny, 12, Karan Dinesh, 11, and Prasana Diksa, one, — to Islam on 12 April and applied for custody rights at the Syariah Court though their mother was still a Hindu.
On the case that was being tried by the Perak Syariah High Court, Wan Mohamad said all parties should be patient since the hearing was still ongoing.
All parties should also abide by the provisions of the Islamic law and the Federal Constitution, he said.— Bernama