Unilateral conversion: Loh’s children to remain non-Muslims

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Federal Court upholds children’s non-Muslim status.

The Federal Court has denied leave for the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIPs) and three others to appeal an appellate court decision to nullify the conversion of three children to Islam by their father without the mother’s consent.

A three-member panel of judges led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat dismissed the applications for leave to appeal by MAIPs, the Perlis State Registrar of Converts, Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin and the Perlis state government.

Following the dismissal of the leave applications by the top court today, single mother Loh Siew Hong’s 16-year-old twin daughters and her 13-year-old son remain Hindu.

In the decision, Justice Tengku Maimun, who sat with Federal Court judges Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan and Datuk Abu Bakar Jais, held that there was no reason to revisit the Federal Court decision in M. Indira Gandhi’s case.

In Indira Gandhi’s case, the Federal Court held that the consent of both parents must be obtained before minor children can be converted to other religions.

Justice Tengku Maimun also said the court was unable to accept that the Federal Court’s decision in Indira Gandhi’s case was only confined to the Federal Territories.

“The Federal Court judgment in Indira Gandhi’s case is binding throughout the nation,” she added.

On the issue that the words “parents” and “parent” were used interchangeably in the Federal Constitution and not addressed in Indira Gandhi’s case, she said the issue was covered in Indira Gandhi’s case.

Justice Tengku Maimun also said both the High Court and the Court of Appeal had made concurrent findings on the issue of whether there was a prescription of the Malay version of the Federal Constitution being the authoritative text.

Hence, she said, the court did not see why the issue had to be ventilated further in the Federal Court.

On Jan 10, 2024, the Court of Appeal allowed Loh’s appeal to overturn the High Court ruling to nullify the unilateral conversion of her three children to Islam in Perlis in 2020 by her Muslim convert ex-husband.

The Court of Appeal declared that Loh’s three children are Hindus.

The High Court in 2023 dismissed Loh’s judicial review application to nullify the conversion of her three children to Islam.

Loh, 37, filed the judicial review application on March 25, 2022, naming the Perlis State Registrar of Converts, MAIPs, Dr Mohd Asri and the Perlis state government as respondents, seeking a declaration that her three children are Hindus and that her Muslim-convert ex-husband, M Nagahswaran, did not have the legal capacity to allow the Perlis State Registrar of Converts to register their children as converts without her consent.

Miera Zulyana

The woman also sought a declaration that her three children, as children, do not have the legal capacity to convert to Islam without her consent.

She also sought a certiorari order to revoke the Declaration of Conversion to Islam, dated July 7, 2020, issued by the Registrar of Converts of Perlis in the name of her three children, and also other cards on their conversion to Islam issued by other parties and to prevent any party from issuing such a card.

The three children, who were placed under the care of the Social Welfare Department, were released to Loh on Feb 21, 2022, after the High Court allowed her habeas corpus application.

Loh was represented by a team of lawyers led by A. Srimurugan while MAIPs was represented by lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla and Perlis state legal adviser Mohd Radhi Abas acted for Perlis State Registrar of Converts, Mohd Asri and the Perlis state government.