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Jamil Khir: Law that bans unilateral conversion is unconstitutional

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PARLIAMENT While the government is in the midst of drafting laws to prevent unilateral conversion of minors, Islamic affairs minister Jamil Khir Baharom has claimed that any legislation to ban unilateral conversion is unconstitutional.

“In the context of the law system and judiciary in Malaysia, the court, be it civil or syariah, upholds the principle of justice in ensuring that the parties of the unilateral conversion are protected.

“For this issue, legislation that bans unilateral conversion contradicts Article 12 (4), which allows the father or mother to decide the child’s faith,” Jamil Khir said in a parliamentary written reply.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department cited the Federal Court’s ruling in R Subashini’s interfaith conversion case.

“The Federal Court had decided that the faith of the child below 18 years old can be decided by the father or mother,” he said.
He was responding to M Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat) who asked when the government would table legislation that bans unilateral conversion.

On March 9, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said the drafting of laws pertaining to the unilateral conversion of minors has been completed.

“From the aspect of civil (law), we do not have much problems, but this also relates to syariah (law),” she said then.

From the syariah law aspect, she said, Jamil has been obtaining feedback from the state religious bodies.

“A series of consultations with the states has been conducted,” she said.

The cabinet had set up a five-member special committee in its latest attempt to deal with the interfaith conversion dispute and custody matters.

When met later, Jamil declined to confirm that the government will not table the amendment bill to ban unilateral conversion as agreed to by the cabinet.

"I have to go for a meeting. You have to ask the relevant minister," he said.

Nancy also claimed that the matter did not fall under her purview.

The government was studying to amend Section 51 of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, she said.

"This law comes under Home Ministry," she said.

"I don't want to comment on something that I have not read," she said, when asked about Jamil's statement.


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