Home Civil Society Voices Unilateral conversion is a violation of human rights

Unilateral conversion is a violation of human rights

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Sisters in Islam (SIS) disagrees with the Court of Appeal’s decision to reinstate a 37-yearold woman as a Muslim as appealed by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais).

The judgment contradicts the Quran’s message: “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (Quran: 2:256). The verse clearly recognises freedom of religion and has been widely interpreted to mean that no one can be forced to embrace Islam.

The Federal Court of Malaysia, in the landmark case of Indira Gandhi a/p Mutho v Pengarah Jabatan Agama Islam Perak & Ors [2018], has made it clear that conversion of minor children to Islam requires the consent of both parents.

The court has unequivocally interpreted Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution, which states that “the religion of a person under the age of eighteen years shall be decided by his parent or guardian”, which means requiring the consent of both parents.

In this case, in 1991 the woman, who was then five years old, was unilaterally converted to Islam by her mother at the Selangor Islamic religious department’s (Jais) office. Her conversion took place while her parents were undergoing a divorce.

Not long after that, her mother married a Muslim man in 1993. The mother admitted she never informed her then husband that her child had been converted.

The woman confirmed she continued practising Hinduism, the religion she was born into, and had never practised Islam.

Her struggles to remove Islam from her identity card started in 2011, when her application was rejected by the National Registration Department. In 2013 she then filed a lawsuit in the Sharia High Court in Kuala Lumpur to seek a declaration she is not a Muslim – which the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) ordered her to be sent to counselling.

In 2017, again, her application to be declared as a non-Muslim was rejected by the Sharia High Court and she filed another appeal in the same year to the Sharia Court of Appeal, which was dismissed in January 2021.

The woman then turned to the civil courts, which said the Sharia courts actually did not have any jurisdiction over her case. In December 2021 the Shah Alam High Court granted her application to declare that she is not a Muslim and dismissed Mais’ previous decision.

Freedom of religion and belief is the right of every Malaysian and is enshrined in our Federal Constitution. Thus, we must honour these rights equally and fairly regardless of race or religion. However, Mais’ actions do not reflect compassion and tolerance.

Surah An-Nisa’ states: “Indeed, those who have believed then disbelieved, then believed, then disbelieved, and then increased in disbelief – never will Allah forgive them, nor will He guide them to a way” (Quran: 4:137).

From this verse, Islam accepts freedom of religion and belief and does not punish anyone who converts out of Islam. – SIS

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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