The lawyers for single mother Loh Siew Hong have cautioned that the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Etiquette Council’s (Maips) application to be an intervener in their client’s divorce case may contain some premature assumptions.
In a statement, the lawyers said Maips, in seeking a court order to change Loh’s custody conditions, had assumed that her children were legally Muslim converts.
However, the lawyers argued that the decision in M Indira Gandhi vs Perak Islamic Religious Department director (2018) made it clear that a child’s conversion to Islam must receive the consent of both parents.
This was subsequently upheld in Federal Territory registrar of muallaf vs LCY (2022), argued the lawyers.
“We believe that as long as the legal precept formulated in the case of Indira, and later upheld in the case of LCY, is still in force, then a child’s conversion to Islam done unilaterally in any state is illegitimate, regardless of whether a state has laws with contrary provisions,” said the lawyers.
“Therefore, the status of (Loh’s) three children has to be decided (by the courts) first before Maips (take legal) action on the assumption that they are muallaf (converts).”
The statement was signed by lawyers Srimurugan Alagan, Shamsher Singh Thind and Gunamalar Joorindanjn.
Seeking to be intervener
Yesterday, Maips sought to be an intervener in Loh’s divorce in order to ensure that the council could provide Islamic education to her three children.
Maips said this was to ensure that the three children will receive guidance on living as Muslims and qualify for zakat while living under the care of a non-Muslim.
The council stressed that they are not seeking to infringe on Loh’s rights but instead to ensure her three children’s alleged desire to be Muslims is safeguarded.
Loh won sole custody of her children in March 2021. However, her children were abducted by her husband Nagahswaran Muniandy, who had their religions converted to Islam in Perlis without her consent.
Nagahswaran is serving a jail sentence for an unrelated matter.
The children were placed under the care of the Social Welfare Department. Loh filed a suit and was finally reunited with her children on Feb 21.
Loh has also stated her intention to challenge the legality of her children’s conversion to Islam. – Malaysiakini