Malaysian ministers to look into court’s decision on Muslim conversion


PETALING JAYA - Three to four ministers have been ordered to look into the recent Court of Appeal decision on the issue of Muslim conversion.

The ministers are believed to be Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, Culture and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and his counterpart Nancy Shukri.

Dr Subramaniam, who is also MIC president, told a Tamil daily that the committee of four ministers had been set up to look into the problems of conversion to Islam by a single parent.

The concern was sparked by the recent Court of Appeal decision in the case of kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi whose children were converted to Islam by her ex-husband K. Patmanathan, who left her and became a Muslim under the name Muhammad Riduan Abdul­lah.

Dr Subramaniam was reported as saying that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had consented to the committee after he raised the issue in Wednesday's Cabinet meeting.

Najib wanted the committee to have a meeting with the Attorney-General in a move forward to resolve the issue.

The report said the first meeting with the A-G was held on Thursday where various measures to prevent the conversion to Islam by a single parent was discussed.

In the case of Indira Gandhi, the three-judge Court of Appeal panel had in a majority judgment on Dec 30 last year allowed the Govern­­ment's appeal to reinstate the children's conversion to Islam.

Indira Gandhi had previously obtained a decision to quash the conversion certificates of her three children from a civil court.

Justices Balia Yusof Wahi and Badariah Sahamid formed the majority decision that matters of Muslim conversions must only be decided by the Syariah Court.

In dissenting, Justice Hamid Sultan Abu Backer said the Administration of Religion of Islam (Perak) Enactment 2004, the law that allowed for the conversion, could be questioned by a civil court.

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said he was optimistic that the committee would find an amicable solution based on the compassion, justice and greatness of Islam and not interpret the religion in a narrow manner.

However, he only mentioned that there would only be three appointed ministers in the committee.

"Indira has rights that needs to be taken into consideration. I am sure the ministers will find an amicable solution that is satisfactory to all parties," Abdul Rahman added.

Women, Family and Community Development deputy minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said the appointment of the three ministers was a "positive move".

MIC vice president Datuk T. Mohan said the government should enact laws to protect the rights of the other religions like it has for the Muslim religion.

"This issue can only be resolved through the formulation of laws," he said.

Science, Technology and Innovat­ion Minister Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau said three ministers have been assigned to look into the matter as the Cabinet was concerned about the implications of the court decision.