KUALA LUMPUR, 29 June 2009: The government has been criticised for organising a briefing on three laws related to conversion and religion for Muslim Members of Parliament (MPs) only.
Anwar (File pic) “These are very important pieces of legislation. It must be well understood and debated by Muslim and non-Muslim MPs,” Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today.
“To invite only Muslim MPs prior to tabling [them] in Parliament, then get both Muslim and non-Muslim to debate it is odd, to me,” Anwar said.
Anwar was referring to a briefing called by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom, who is in charge of religion, which was originally slated for 6pm today.
Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail was meant to brief Muslim MPs on the amendments to the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984, the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, and the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993.
The meeting was, however, cancelled at the last minute.
Anwar stressed that it was important for all sides of the debate to be heard. “We want to hear from both Muslim and non-Muslim non-governmental organisations, Islamic scholars, and all relevant parties.”
Amendments to these laws followed renewed controversy over unilateral conversions of minors into Islam, particularly in the case of M Indira Gandhi. These amendments are, among others, meant to accommodate the cabinet decision on such unilateral conversions.
Nazri Aziz On 16 June 2009, de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz was quoted as saying that the proposed amendments touched on “the dissolution of marriage, right to custody of children, maintenance of children and wife, and division of matrimonial assets”.
It was also reported that the Rulers’ Council would debate the proposed amendments of these laws today. The rulers are officially the guardians of Islam in their respective states.
Nazri told reporters in Parliament today that the briefing for Muslim MPs was cancelled because of everyone’s busy schedules.
He said the briefing would be held at a later date, but did not provide further details.