Lawyer: No end to unilateral conversions unless banned by states

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A lawyer who represented M Indira Gandhi in her custody battle has warned that unilateral conversions will continue unless individual states amend their respective laws to ban such practices.

Rajesh Nagarajan said a majority of the states have yet to amend their legislations to be in line with the Federal Court’s landmark decision in 2018 that the consent of both parents was needed to convert a minor.

“Currently, only Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak prohibit the unilateral conversion of minors,” he told FMT.

“The relevant law in every state should be amended to allow bilateral conversion, where both parents are present,” Rajesh told FMT.

“Otherwise, the inconsistency between the states’ laws and the Federal Court decision will result in a vicious cycle of aggrieved parents having to apply to the High Court to declare the unilateral conversions invalid.”

Rajesh was commenting on the controversy surrounding single mother Loh Siew Hong, whose three children had been converted without her consent.

He said Section 117(b) of the Perlis Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006, which was amended in 2016 to allow unilateral conversions, was still in force.

“In light of the controversy arising from the conversion of Loh’s children, Perlis must take immediate steps to bring the enactment in line with the decision of the Federal Court,” he said.

Yesterday, Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin confirmed that the state’s religious department had registered Loh’s 14-year-old twin daughters and 10-year-old son as Muslims without her being present.

He also defended the conversion of the children without Loh’s consent, saying no one could question it as it was done in accordance with the relevant law in Perlis that had been amended in 2016 to allow such conversion. – FMT