By the National Chairman of Wanita MCA in response to the statement made by YB Mahfuz Omar criticising the Cabinet decision on minor children’s religion should one spouse convert
Wanita MCA disagrees and condemns the statement by PAS Information Chief, YB Mahfuz Omar who is also the Member of Parliament for Pokok Sena over his criticisms against the Cabinet decision which announced that minor children will follow the faith which the parents had agreed upon at the time of marriage. (Harakah, 27-30 April pN2).
Mahfuz had also erroneously accused the Barisan Nasional government of “becoming rougher against the rakyat to the level of confiscating the rights of parents towards their children. (“Barisan Nasional (BN) semakin kasar terhadap rakyat sehingga ke peringkat merampas hak ibu bapa ke atas anak-anak mereka [HarakahDaily.Net, 27 April 2009].)
Wanita MCA strongly views that the announcement by the Prime Minister’s administration serves to counteract some quarters’ attempt at evading their family responsibility through the justification of conversion to Islam. Such irresponsible practices should not be condoned. Thus, we believe that this announcement is a pertinent step forward towards preserving harmony, respecting the rights of non-Muslims and the jurisdiction of the civil court in a plural society with diversities such as faith and ethnicity.
We stand by decision of the Cabinet under the new leadership of Dato’ Sri Najib Razak on this long-standing inter-faith conflict arising from conversion of one spouse to Islam and subsequently converting their children to Islam without the consent of the other non-converting spouse. Further, we support the statement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz that there is “implied and constructive contract between husband and wife that their children should be brought up in accordance to the common religion at the time of marriage” (“Malaysia bars conversion of children by 1 parent”, Associated Press, 23 April 2009).
This announcement reflects the government’s commitment in recognising equal rights and shared responsibilities of both parents in making decisions which are of paramount interest for their children. Also, this announcement is in tandem with the spirit of amendment to Guardianship of Infants Act 1961 at the end of 1999 which guarantees equal rights of mothers to guardianship.
In addition, we laud the statement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz’s that “amendments are expected to be made to the law to prevent conflicts from surfacing when one spouse converts” (“Malaysia bars conversion of children by 1 parent”, Associated Press, 23 April 2009).
We truly believe that the government’s decision is sensible and sensitive in resolving amicably the issue of conversion of children to Islam by one parent.
Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun
Wanita MCA National Chairman