Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has been urged to prove his commitment in stopping unilateral child conversions in light of the Umno-led Perlis state's amendment to the contrary.
"I call on the prime minister and president of Umno to show his commitment to correct the wrong in allowing conversion of a minor child to Islam by one converted spouse acting unilaterally without the consent of the non-converted spouse," PKR's Selayang MP William Leong said in a statement today.
The Perlis state assembly last week passed an amendment to the Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006, allowing one parent to convert a child to Islam.
"This (the amendment) raises doubts about the sincerity and genuineness to correct the wrongs perpetrated on the non-converting spouse," Leong said.
There were several reasons for the amendment made by the Perlis state government to cast doubts on the prime minister's commitment to put an end to the unilateral conversion row, Leong (photo) added.
Perlis Menteri Besar Azlan Man, who tabled the amendment, is from Umno, he pointed out. Therefore this move could not have been made without Najib's prior knowledge.
Furthermore, 12 of the assemblypersons who voted in favour of the amendment are also from Umno, so Najib should have known that they were going to vote for it.
He said the Umno assemblypersons and Azlan also ought to have known about the proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA), as well as the cabinet's decision in 2009 not to allow unilateral child conversion.
Therefore they could not have acted in direct conflict to these without the prime minister knowing about it.
"The above therefore requires Najib, as prime minister and president of Umno, to state clearly and unequivocally his stand on unilateral child conversion," Leong said.
'Not religious issue'
Najib announced in August that the cabinet had agreed to table amendments to the LRA to ensure interfaith disputes involving civil marriages are resolved in the civil court.
The LRA amendments were tabled in Parliament a few days after Perlis passed the amendment to its Islamic enactment.
Perlis' amendment concerns the Malay version of the enactment, which previously stated that a child who had not reached the age of 18, may convert to Islam only with the consent of both "father and mother" or the guardian.
It was reported that the term "father and mother" is now replaced with "father or mother" in the amendment to Section 117(b) of the enactment.
This effectively opens doors to the unilateral conversion of a child by one parent.
Leong said the issue of unilateral child conversions is not a political or religious issue, or one that is dependent on majority rule.
"What is wrong cannot be made right by a majority voting in favour of it. This becomes a tyranny of the majority.
"It is about correcting, safeguarding and preserving existing rights of the non-converting spouse and family members based on the principles of justice, equality and freedom of religion, which is the cornerstone of our multiracial and multi-religious society," he said.- Mkini