PETALING JAYA - Support continues to pour in for the Negri Sembilan government's decision to compel a spouse in a civil marriage to divorce first if he or she wishes to become a Muslim.
Interfaith groups, women's rights advocates, G25 and individuals want other states to follow suit but some are also asking what would happen if the non-converting spouse does not want a divorce.
They were responding to reports in The Star yesterday of the new provisions to the state's Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2003 that would "safeguard the image of Islam".
The provisions would also require the new Muslim to make a statutory declaration of his or her conversion so the rightful party would be able to claim the body upon the person's death.
Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Mohamed Hasan also told The Star that the provisions had received the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Besar Tuanku Muhriz; that they would not need to be tabled in the state assembly and would be in force once the state exco had endorsed them.
Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) president Jagir Singh said it was only fair that converting spouses from a civil marriage fulfilled their obligations under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 first.
Jagir said the council welcomed the proposal as it would help avoid the problems faced by non-converting spouses.
He added that the provisions would also prevent any overlap in the jurisdiction of the Syariah and civil courts.
Former Malaysia Hindu Sangam and past council president Datuk A. Vaithilingam said much anguish, pain and unhappiness was caused when one party converted without dissolving his or her civil marriage.
"Civil and Islamic laws are different and painful results have been created - R. Subashini, S. Shyamala, Indra Gandhi and S. Deepa are good examples of this."
Selangor Mufti Datuk Mohd Tamyes Abd Wahid said Islam had been degraded and insulted by others because of the conduct of some converts.
"Making those who want to convert to Islam tie up loose ends first and openly declare their religious status would be ideal,'' he said.
"If Negri Sembilan sets a precedent with this new law, and since it's something good, other states may want to do the same.'
Mohd Tamves said the matter would definitely be discussed in Selangor but declined to say whether Selangor would consider passing a similar law.
The G25 also congratulated the Negri Sembilan government "for its wisdom in introducing the initiative."
"It will avoid tugs-of-war over rights of burial where the deceased had converted to Islam without the knowledge of his or her family.
"This amendment will rightly show the just and compassionate side of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims in this country.
"We call on the other state governments to introduce a similar amendment to their respective Administration of the Religion of Islam enactments," said Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin in a statement for G25.