Mother loses appeal to unilaterally convert children to Islam

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Court of Appeal bound by Federal Court’s decision in the case of M Indira Gandhi.

Yusof Mat Isa

The Court of Appeal today dismissed appeals by a Muslim-convert mother and the Federal Territory Registrar of Muallaf against a high court decision to quash the unilateral conversion of her two children to Islam.

In a unanimous decision, the three-member bench led by Justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah said the Court of Appeal was bound by the Federal Court’s decision in the case of kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi.

“We find no appealable error made by the learned high court judge. Therefore, we find no merit in these appeals and they are dismissed,” Zabidin said at the virtual proceedings today.

The other two judges were S Nantha Balan and Nordin Hassan.

On October 16, 2018, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur allowed the judicial review by the father of the children, a Buddhist, to quash the unilateral conversion to Islam of his two children born in a civil marriage to the woman, who was a Buddhist at the time.

Then high court judge Azizah Nawawi, who has since been elevated to the Court of Appeal, said it was not in dispute that the certificates of conversion of the children were issued without the consent of the children’s father.

She said she was bound by the Federal Court decision, which ruled that the consent of both parents were required before a child born in a civil marriage can be converted to Islam.

In today’s matter, the father of the children had filed a judicial review to quash the conversion of his two young children who were converted to Islam in May 2016 without his knowledge or consent.

The identities of the family cannot be disclosed due to a high court order issued on May 21, 2018.

Meanwhile, a Court of Appeal decision in September 2018 to grant full custody of the children to the father was affirmed, following the mother’s failure to obtain leave to pursue her appeal in the Federal Court.

Lawyer Nizam Bashir represented the Registrar of Muallaf, while senior federal counsel Nik Isfahanie Tasnim Wan Ab Rahman appeared for the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department director-general, the education ministry director-general and the government.

Lawyer K Shanmuga represented the father, while lawyer Arham Rahimy Hariri appeared for the mother.