Sisters in Islam: Unilateral conversion is a violation of human rights

Letter to editor

THIS statement is in response to the Court of Appeal’s decision to reinstate a 37-year-old woman as a Muslim as featured in Free Malaysia Today (FMT)’s article published on Jan 13 headlined “MAIS wins appeal to reinstate woman as Muslim”.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) disagrees with the Court of Appeal’s decision the woman as a Muslim as appealed by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS). The judgment contradicts the Quran’s message, “Let there be no compulsion in religion,” (Quran: 2:256).

The verse clearly recognises freedom of religion and has been widely interpreted to mean that nobody can be forced to embrace Islam.

The Federal Court of Malaysia in the landmark case of Indira Gandhi a/p Mutho vs Pengarah Jabatan Agama Islam Perak & Ors (2018) (Indira Gandhi [FC]), has made it clear that conversion of minor children to Islam requires the consent of both parents.

The Court has unequivocally interpreted Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution which states that “the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian” which means requiring the consent of both parents.

In this case, the woman, who was then five years old in 1991, had been unilaterally converted to Islam by her mother at the Selangor Islamic Religious Department’s (JAIS) office. Her conversion took place while her parents were undergoing a divorce.

Not long after that, her mother married a Muslim man in 1993. The mother admitted that she never informed her then husband that her child had been converted.

The woman confirmed that she continued practicing Hinduism, the religion that she was born into and had never practiced Islam. Her struggles to remove Islam from her identity card started in 2011 when her application was rejected by the National Registration Department (NRD).

In 2013, she then filed a lawsuit in the Syariah High Court in Kuala Lumpur to seek declaration that she is not a Muslim which the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) ordered her to be sent to counselling.

In 2017, again, her application to be declared as a non-Muslim was rejected by the Syariah High Court and she filed another appeal in the same year to the Syariah Court of Appeal which was dismissed in January 2021.

The woman then turned to the civil courts which said that the Syariah Courts actually did not have any jurisdiction over her case. In December 2021, the Shah Alam High Court granted her application to declare that she is not a Muslim and dismissed MAIS’ previous decision.

Freedom of religion and belief (FoRB) is a right of every Malaysian and is enshrined in our Federal Constitution. Thus, we must honour these rights equally and fairly regardless of race or religion. However, MAIS’ actions do not reflect compassion and tolerance.

Surah An-Nisa’ states, “Indeed, those who have believed then disbelieved, then believed, then disbelieved, and then increased in disbelief – never will Allah forgive them, nor will He guide them to a way,” (Quran: 4:137).

From this verse, Islam accepts freedom of religion and belief and does not punish anyone who converts out of Islam. – Jan 16, 2023


Sisters in Islam
Petaling Jaya

 The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main pic credit: Malay Mail

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