It must have been heart-wrenching for single mother Loh Siew Hong after being denied full access to her beloved children, whom she last saw and touched three years ago.
She was hoping for a peaceful and happy reunion recently with her three children – a 10-year-old boy and 14-year-old twin girls – after successfully tracking down their whereabouts.
They were snatched away by her estranged Hindu husband while she was hospitalised in 2019, and he later placed them under the care of an Islamic civil society organisation, where they were allegedly unilaterally converted to Islam.
A family reunion it was not to be. The children’s religious conversion has become a stumbling block to Loh’s effort to bring them back with her as a family again. They are now placed under the custody of the Perlis Welfare Department.
This is despite her having obtained a court order for the custody of her children after her divorce was finalised last year.
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She now has to file a habeas corpus application to get her children back.
It must also have been greatly disturbing for her to find out that her children were allegedly converted without her knowledge and consent.
That is why Loh, who is also a Hindu, had sent a letter of demand to the Islamic councils of Perlis, Kedah and Penang to prove that she consented to the religious conversion of her children who were raised as Hindus.
The demand letter has the precedent of M Indira Gandhi’s case, in which the Federal Court ruled that the consent of both parents is required before a conversion-to-Islam certificate can be issued to their children.
It is often said that a mother’s love is unconditional, engaging and precious. One could possibly imagine the trauma that Loh, pining for her children, is going through.
Maternal love and care are of great importance in Islam, as in other religious traditions, because mothers are regarded as having a pivotal role in raising and instilling values in their children.
The loving and biological connection between a mother and her children cannot and should not be severed, especially by a third party. Loh and her children have been deprived of this bonding.
Even the love of adoptive parents is equally invaluable, as well illustrated by the case of 83-year-old Chee Hoi Lan who single-handedly showered her love on Rohana Abdullah, whom she raised like her own child for the past 22 years after being abandoned by her biological parents.
What is also noteworthy is that the retired kindergarten teacher saw to it that Rohana was raised as a Muslim – and not converted out of Islam.
Mothers generally would go to great length in nurturing and protecting their loved ones. In her desperation, Loh was reportedly even considering embracing Islam if that could help her get back her children.
But such ‘conversion’ may be considered problematic as it would be done under duress, which may constitute compulsion that is not taken kindly in Islam.
It would also be unjust to Loh if she was to do that. After all, Islam also puts heavy emphasis on justice, which is why it is hoped that justice and compassion would eventually prevail in Loh’s case.
A broken heart needs a balm, not injustice. – The Malaysian Insight