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More on child conversions…

Salam everyone, I read this article in theSun newspaper this morning:

 Let’s say no to child conversion

THE AUTHORITIES must step up efforts to ensure that an anguished and grieving Hindu mother is reunited with her one-year-old daughter. What they do may most certainly help demonstrate the caring attitude of the new government of Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak while at the same time show that it is ready to face the consequences for doing the right and just thing. The woman’s Hindu husband had not only converted to Islam after leaving her but had taken away from her the baby which he subsequently “converted to Islam”, whatever that means. Some religious officials must have abetted him in “converting” the baby without the consent of the mother. What he did was deplored by members of the Hindu community and other Malaysians, including prominent Muslim scholars. The government, mindful that the non-resolution of numerous high profile problems related to “conversion to Islam” was one of the reasons the BN government became unpopular, decided to act quickly. It decided that it must come up with a definite policy on conversions of minors to avert future problems while at the same time demonstrating its commitment to its recently articulated 1Malaysia principle and objective. Last week’s cabinet meeting decided that civil courts are the right place to dissolve a marriage in the event of a spouse converting to Islam because conversion does not dissolve the marriage. But most importantly it decided that children should follow the faith that the parents had agreed on at the time of their marriage. Because the decisions may run counter to certain legal and constitutional provisions the cabinet also directed the attorney general to propose amendments to them so as to prevent future complications whenever a spouse converted to Islam. While opposition to the cabinet decision is building up from the expected quarters more and more learned Muslims are also coming out to speak against the conversion of children to Islam or to any religion for that matter. It is hoped that everybody will look at the effort to resolve the problem as objectively and as dispassionately as possible. But most importantly in these days when politics seem to be the preoccupation of many Malaysians, politicians too should view the government’s decision as objectively and as dispassionately as possible. Whatever we do we must ensure that we are moving forward in our journey towards a truly multiracial Malaysia. And by resolving this problem we are taking one huge step forward. Let us help the government not to flip-flop on this one.

I have to disagree with the author of this article. He is saying we must look at this issue objectively and dispassionately, but I don’t think the author is looking at objectively or dispassionately at all. I would like to write objectively and dispassionately about this article but I’m quite annoyed by it so please forgive me if I sound emotional.

First of all, the author writes, “The  authorities must step up efforts to ensure that an anguished and grieving Hindu mother is reunited with her one-year-old daughter…”. Okay now why must the authorities i.e. the courts and the government give special attention to this person? Not only that, the author urges the authorities to step up efforts to help this person. I don’t know her, but I’m sure she is a nice person and all, and no ones wants to see her in anguish and grief, however the authorities must treat this case as equally as any other custody battle. We do not live in an ideal world, where families stay together forever. The reality is that families sometimes break apart, and this happens to all families regardless of race or religion. There are many more anguished and grieving parents who are struggling to gain custody of their beloved children. If the government wants to step up efforts for that particular person, then it should step up its efforts for everyone who is in a custody battle.

Secondly, the author writes, “What they do may most certainly help demonstrate the caring attitude of the new government of Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak while at the same time show that it is ready to face the consequences for doing the right and just thing…”.

How does the author concludes that it is the right and just thing? The court case is not concluded yet, there has been no final decision by the court on the matter. Is he merely going on the basis of humanity? That a young child is best raised with the mother? What about the rights of the father? Is the author taking this stance because the mother is a Hindu and the father is Muslim? What if it was the other way around? What if the mother was the one who converted and the father wanted to take away the children from her? Will the author be singing a different tune then? I think the author is not objective at all here. Personally, my view is that if the child is still breastfeeding then the child should rightly be with his or her mother. However if the child is already old enough then the court should decide based on the facts and circumstances of each case, and the decision must be in the best interest of the child, not the parents.

Thirdly, the issue of child conversion is a thorny one. The author mentioned that the government’s policy on the matter had caused it to be unpopular and the latest decision by the cabinet showed its commitment to the 1Malaysia concept. I reserve my comments on this particular issue. I just would like to say that if a person who wishes to convert to Islam, must be aware of what he is doing, and that he consciously choose to do so of his own free will, because in Islam there is no coercion. He must also be able to utter the two syahadah, i.e. the basic requirements of a Muslim. So if the child fully understands and he really wants to convert to Islam and he can utter the two syahadah, who are we to deny him his right to religion?

Finally, the author also wrote that the decision of the cabinet may run counter to certain laws and constitutional provisions hence its proposal to the Attorney General to amend the laws. However, as I have mentioned in my previous post, altering the constitution requires a two third majority in Parliament, and that still remains to be seen.

These recent developments certainly has given me food for thought, and I shall adjourn my post at this point. I welcome any comments that you may have. Thank you.


4 Responses

  1. He must also be able to utter the two syahadah, i.e. the basic requirements of a Muslim. So if the child fully understands and he really wants to convert to Islam and he can utter the two syahadah, who are we to deny him his right to religion?

    What nonsense are you talking about in saying that “So if a ‘child’ can fully understand and he “really” wants to convert to Islam and he can utter the two syahadah, who are we to deny him his right to religion?”.
    Are you a total idiot that you can’t understand that a child is too innocent to decide on something as serious as religion. Either that or you have taken leave of your good sense and sanity.

    • Dear Sittam,

      First of all I would like to assure you that I am still sane and I still have my senses about me (most of the time).

      Clearly you disagree with me on this particular issue, but I will refrain from calling you names. You said a child is too innocent to understand religion? What does that mean? You can’t be innocent and know God at the same time? Maybe you want to rephrase your sentence?

      I agree that religion is something very serious. It is an integral part of our life. But who decides what religion one practices then? Our parents? The Parliament? The Courts?

      Its true that parents would naturally teach the religion that they practice to their children. And when one converts it is natural that they want their children to convert too. Which brings us to this whole mess.

      That is why I said that if the child is able to choose for himself then let him choose. If he is unable to do so then let their parents choose. Which parent you might ask? Well if they are divorced then the child should practice the religion of the parent that they are living with since that parent can teach him. And when the time comes he can choose on his own accord. That I would think would be the most rational solution, wouldn’t you agree?

  2. sorry for the harsh words used against you earlier. I am just infuriated by the insensitive way the religious (Islamic) authorities regard non-Muslims in this country. I thought Islam taught one to be compassionate. How can you justify separating a young child from his mother in the name of religion? How can you be so inhumane? What more if the father has chosen to leave the wife for the selfish reason of satiating his sexual urges and material desires. (I’m sure you cannot argue with the glaring fact that most Hindu or Christian men who have converted to Islam is to marry a Muslim woman.) You should understand that being a Hindu is leading a dharmic (righteous) way of life and anyone who leaves its path for reasons of seeking sensual pleasure or material wants is considered to have committed adharma (deviated from the path of righteousness). Such a person cannot be considered a good parent.

    • Its okay Sittam, water under the bridge.

      Actually in Islam, the right of Hadanah (or child custody), priority is given to the mother especially in cases where the child is still young (below 7 i think). Anyway in this particular issue, the court has made an interim order on behalf of the mother, and a date is fixed later for the proper hearing of Hadanah. As with any case the court hears, (be it civil or syariah) both parties has the right to submit the facts justifying their rights for Hadanah. So it depends the facts and circumstances of the case. Here is an article on Hadanah

      When you say that when Hindu and Christian men convert just because of material and sensual pleasure, I cannot say for sure that they are not. Maybe you are right, some just convert because of sake of marriage. But we can’t say the same for all of them. Truthfully we don’t know what are in their hearts. Perhaps they convert because they truly have had a revelation or some spiritual awakening. We can’t really say for sure. It is between them and God. If they convert for righteous reasons, then Praise to God. Otherwise, they will get their just retribution one day.

      Another thing to ponder is when Muslims convert to Hindu or Christianity; what reasons do they have to convert? Can I say because of sensual and material pleasure as well? Is it because they want to drink alcohol and gamble? Is it because they don’t want to pray 5 times a day? What do you think?

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