Home Civil Society Voices Unilateral conversion of minors: Uphold Federal Court’s decision urgently

Unilateral conversion of minors: Uphold Federal Court’s decision urgently

The Palace of Justice in Putrajaya - Photograph: Ezry Abdul Rahman from Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) stresses that the unanimous Federal Court decision pertaining to the constitutionality of unilaterally converting minors to Islam must be upheld and supersede any state laws.

Time and again, we have seen families broken down as a result of unilateral conversions, with children having to pay the ultimate price for their parents’ fallouts. The Federal Court decision was made on the basis that the paramount concern is the child’s welfare and interest.

Allowing unilateral conversion would remove the right of one parent in relation to the interest of his or her own child. As parents, issues of fundamental importance such as religion should be decided together – or at least discussed and informed.

In some cases, conversion to Islam has been used in order to gain access to the Sharia court system to obtain divorce and the custody of children, while denying the right of the non-Muslim parent to participate in the decision. This goes against the spirit of Islam as a religion that places high regard on the family unit and promotes justice and compassion to all.

JAG believes that conversions should be done the right way. The decision should take into account the interests of all parties with special emphasis on the short and long-term impacts that it has on the child – and therefore needs to be made jointly by both parents.

We believe that the strength and health of the community and country starts with the family unit. Therefore, any laws that enable parents to act in secret must not be allowed.

Endorsed by the following JAG member organisations:

  • All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
  • Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
  • Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG)
  • Justice for Sisters (JFS)
  • Knowledge and Rights with Young People Through Safer Spaces (Kryss)
  • Perak Women for Women (PWW)
  • Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
  • Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  • Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo)
  • Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  • Tenaganita
  • Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  • Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)
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