Syariah courts must be for Muslims only

JC Francis

Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

I refer to the malaysiakini report Hindu woman loses appeal over Muslim divorce and would like to call upon the Malaysian judiciary to not abdicate their responsibilities and check attempts to use the Syariah Court as a quick and easy fix in disputes when there is a non-Muslim presence.

We, especially non-Muslim citizens, must not forgo our constitutional rights. The constitution is the country's supreme law. The partial majority decision by the Appeals Court directs R Subshini to seek recourse through the syariah courts to stop the conversion of her son to Islam by her former husband.

The decision is bias and refutable. Citing the Tan Sung Mooi case in 1994, the Supreme Court had already decided clearly that conversion to Islam does not allow a person to avoid any legal obligations under his non-Muslim marriage.

This Appeals Court decision again highlights the fundamental issue of denial of justice to a non-Muslim. This is a real human rights issue as the request for a non-Muslim to go to the syariah courts imposes upon an individual's right.

The matter is made worse when the individual does not believe in the theological laws imposed.

All Malaysians are protected by the Federal Constitution which clearly states that syariah laws apply to Muslims only. As parents - even if they are divorced - have a say in deciding their children's religion. If there is a dispute, the children can choose their religion upon turning 18.

Subshini's child cannot be converted to Islam in this case. This case must be presented and resolved in the civil courts. This is only just and appropriate. Malaysians must come forth to bring about this right of law.

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