PAS Wants Religious Authorities In All States To Be Able To Convert Children Unilaterally

The Islamist party's Ulama wing has called on religious authorities in all states in the country to amend the terms for conversion in light of a recent case involving a single mum whose kids were converted unilaterally without her consent.

Cover image via Free Malaysia Today & The Vibes

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Malaysia's Islamist political party PAS' Ulama Wing has urged the religious authorities in each state to immediately amend the conditions of religious conversion so that children can be converted unilaterally

PAS, a component party of the governing Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Barisan National (BN) coalition which came to power as a result of the 2020-21 Malaysian political crisis, wants the terms for conversion amended so that religious conversions of underage children can be carried out with the consent of either the mother or father and not require the consent of both, which is the practice in a few states.

Selangor, Sabah, and Sarawak are the only states that prohibit the unilateral conversion of minors.

The party's promotion of unilateral conversion is in direct defiance of the Federal Court decision in 2018 that declared that the consent of both parents is needed before a certificate of conversion can be issued.

This comes after a recent case involving single mother Loh Siew Hong, who won a legal challenge to overturn the detention of her three children who were unilaterally converted to Islam by her ex-husband

The Penang-born mother was finally reunited with her three children — two 14-year-old twin girls and a 10-year-old boy — after three years of fighting for their custody since her former husband abducted them and placed them under the care of Islamic non-governmental organisation Hidayah Centre Foundation operator Nazirah Nanthakumari Abdullah, who reportedly initially refused the mother from seeing her children.

The three children, who are Hindus, were unilaterally converted to Islam by their father.

On 21 February, Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled for the immediate release of the children from the care of Perlis state's Social Welfare Department (JKM).

Loh, a Hindu Chinese, now intends to challenge and nullify the Islamic conversion of her three children in a separate court action, which is something Perlis mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin is against.

In a statement after the High Court ruling, he said he is looking for "other legal means" to maintain the unilateral conversion of Loh's three children, who Asri claimed, refused to go back to their mother.

"We are not surprised by the decision on the custody rights. What we are defending is the Islamisation of the children, if they want to continue to embrace Islam. We are looking at other measures," he said.

Along with Asri, Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Ahmad Marzuk Shaary has insisted that the unilateral conversion is legal and valid despite the landmark Federal Court decision.

Loh, her children, and Bagan Dalam assemblyman Satees Muniandy (left), lawyer Shamsher Singh Thind (back), and Seberang Perai councillor P David Marshel (right) on 21 February after the High Court ruling.

Image via David Marshel (Facebook)

In the statement, the party's Ulama Wing also urged everyone to respect the choice made by Loh's children to remain Muslims

"Stop making accusations that they were forced to convert to Islam when it was done with their consent and the consent of the children's father," it said, adding that it urges the government to prioritise the welfare of Loh's three children so that they will not be disturbed and forced to return to apostasy.

"Muslims have been patient for a long time and we do not want the religious harmony guaranteed by the Federal Constitution to inflame the sentiments and anger of Muslims," the PAS Ulama Wing said.

Additionally, PAS has proposed a Constitutional amendment to allow Syariah Courts to have judicial review powers for cases involving religious conversions to avoid future conflict.

"Therefore, the PAS Ulama Wing urges all parties to respect the position of Islam as the Federal religion and the jurisdiction of the states in the administration of Islamic affairs," the wing added.

Image via PAS

Read more about Loh's case here: