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Malaysia proposes Bill for religion change

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 17:19

Kuala Lumpur: In the wake of a controversial conversion of two minor ethnic Hindu children in Malaysia, the government is planning an amendment in a Bill, which allows a person below the age of 18 to convert into Islam even if only one parent or guardian consents to the conversion.

Earlier, two minor ethnic Indian Hindu children in Malaysia had been converted to Islam without their mother`s consent, triggering protests from the country`s Bar Council which called unilateral conversion as illegal.

Citing the Federal Constitution, Bar Council president Christopher Leong had said that one parent did not have the right to convert the children without the other`s knowledge.

Leong cited a Cabinet directive by then Law Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz who said that the children of an estranged couple were to remain in the religion of their parents at the point of their marriage. The amendment allows a person below the age of 18 to convert into Islam if one parent or guardian consents to the conversion.

Meanwhile, reacting to the government`s move, country`s Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz today said he opposed the proposed amendment in the Constitution Bill.

He said the move will harm the multi-ethnic threads of the country. Aziz told mediapersons here that the proposed amendment is unfair to non-muslims in this multi-ethnic country.

"As a lawyer and a Muslim, I am not comfortable with the situation," Aziz said, adding that it would not be fair for only one parent to determine a child`s religion.

He said as a Muslim and a leader of the country, "it is our responsibility to protect the minority and ensure their rights are protected.

"I think what`s happening today is postponing a bigger problem," said the Minister. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had assured that all parties would be consulted before making any decision on the Bill.

Parliament Deputy Speaker Ronald Kiandee said unless it is withdrawn, the Bill was expected to be tabled for second and third reading before the current meeting ends on July 18.

According to a media report, an ethnic Indian Hindu woman, identified as S Deepa, 29, from Jelebu had discovered that her husband, who left her 16 months ago, had converted their two children without her knowledge.
Deepa`s husband had alleged that she had been having an affair with another man and could not take care of their children.
Muslim majority Malaysia has a mixed population including ethnic Indians and ethnic Chinese.


First Published: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 17:19

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