The Cabinet should withdraw Section 107(b) of the Administration of Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 to give time for Malaysians to achieve national consensus on conversion of minor children to Islam in keeping with the constitutional scheme contained in Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution, read with Article 160 and the Eleventh Schedule, and to promote family integrity, freedom of religion and national harmony.
Former Cabinet Minister, United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) head Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said yesterday that the provision is a contradiction to the 1Malaysia concept of acceptance, inclusiveness and moderation, suggesting a full discussion by Barisan Nasional on this issue and related religious issues before proceeding with the provision in Parliament.
Dompok said that a few months ago when he was still in the Cabinet, he had asked for the withdrawal of a paper on the bill in Cabinet as he felt that an earlier Cabinet decision on the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 should be implemented instead.
Section 107(b) of the 64-page 116-section Administration of Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 provides that the consent of one parent alone is sufficient for the conversion of minor children to Islam, which is not only contrary to the Constitution but contravenes the Cabinet decision announced on April 23, 2009 that a single parent cannot convert a minor.
MIC has gone on public to say that it has not been consulted on the proposed Section 107(b) of the Bill while MCA vice president Gan Ping Sieu has described as “shocking” the “steathy” tabling of the proposed provision related to child conversion, terming it as a “terrible disservice to the much talked-about national reconciliation”.
He said the proposed provision run contrary to the collective cabinet decision on 22nd April 2009 that the consent of both parents were required in the conversion of minors.
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) and the Bar Council have raised concerns on the provision as
any unilateral conversion of children by one parent is not fair to the minor or the other parent, apart from being unconstitutional and morally and ethically wrong.
Pakatan Rakyat MPs are discussing the provision to seek a consensus on the matter.
It will be a national disaster if the 13th Parliament starts off with a provision which splits the country down the middle, raising fundamental questions not only about the integrity of the Constitution but the maturity of the nation’s leaders to unite rather than to divide the diverse races, religions and cultures that make up Malaysia.
It is for this reason that the Cabinet should withdraw the two-line Section 107(b) in the 64-page 116-section Administration of Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 to give time for Malaysians to achieve a national consensus on conversion of minor children to Islam in keeping with the Constitution and to promote family integrity, freedom of religion and national harmony.