Single Hindu Mum Loh Can Now Legally Challenge Her 3 Kids' Unilateral Islamic Conversion
Yesterday, 1 August, Loh Siew Hong, a Hindu woman, was granted leave to commence with her legal action to quash her three children's unilateral conversion to Islam by her Muslim convert former husband
The Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that Loh was within the time period to file the judicial review.
The 34-year-old mother filed the legal action on 23 March this year when she was finally allowed to reunite with her two 14-year-old twin girls and her 10-year-old son after three years of fighting for their custody.
She received confirmation of the unilateral conversion of her children on 4 March.
Her former husband, Muhammad Nagahswaran Muniandy, had run off with their three children and placed them under the care of Islamic non-governmental organisation Hidayah Centre Foundation operator Nazirah Nanthakumari Abdullah, who had reportedly refused Loh from seeing her children.
Nagahswaran is currently serving jail time on drug-related charges.
According to judge Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, Loh's application for leave is not frivolous and that the single mother has an arguable case
Wan Ahmad, during proceedings conducted via zoom, noted that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has no objection to the leave being given for the judicial review to proceed, reported Malaysiakini.
In her judicial review leave application that was filed on 25 March, Loh named four respondents, namely, the Perlis Registrar of Muallafs (new converts to Islam), the Religious and Malay Customs Council of Perlis (MAIPS), Perak mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, and the Perak state government.
One of the respondents — MAIPS, represented by lawyer Mohamed Hanif Khatri Abdulla — had asked the High Court to reject Loh's application, saying that the conversion was done in 2020.
An application for leave for judicial review must be filed within 90 days after a public authority communicates its decision to an aggrieved party. Since Low was only informed on 4 March, she was still within the three-month period to file the application, which the single mother did on 23 March.
"In any event, as the applicant (Loh) only found out on 4 March 2022, she is still within time (to file the legal action) as it depends on when the decision was communicated to the applicant. The applicant has crossed the threshold to argue her case. Leave is granted with no order to cost," he was reported as saying.
A date to hear the merits of Loh's legal challenge has not yet been set.
Loh wants an order of certiorari to reverse the registration of conversion dated 7 July 2020 issued by the registrar and wants any official registration of her children's conversion to be struck from the records
The Penang-born Hindu Chinese woman is seeking several declarations with regard to ensuring religious freedom for all three of her minor children, something Perlis mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin is against.
Along with seeking a declaration that her former husband Nagahswaran was legally unfit to convert them to Islam, Loh is also seeking a declaration that a Perlis state enactment that allows a single parent to convert a minor child to Islam without the permission of the other parent is unconstitutional.
She also wants a declaration that her three children are of the Hindu faith and not Muslim.
After Loh was given full custody of her children in February this year, Malaysia's Islamist political party PAS' Ulama Wing urged the religious authorities in each state to immediately amend the conditions of religious conversion so that children can be converted unilaterally.
PAS 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.
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.