Conversion Cases Exact Heavy Emotional Toll
Will the Government Finally Give Relief?
On April 23, the Cabinet made an historical decision to prohibit parents who have divorced from converting their children to a different religion. The decision arose from the furore of the case of kindergarten teacher Indira Gandhi whose estranged husband converted their children to Islam without her consent. He had earlier converted and had successfully applied to the syariah court for custody of their children.
The Cabinet has directed the Attorney-General to look into the relevant laws that need to be amended to seal its decision to disallow converted parents to convert their children's religion.
The decision, though long overdue, was hailed by many as the right step toward bringing relief to the many lives whose children have been covertly converted by their spiteful spouses.
Ever since the S. Shamala case exploded in the media, bystanders could only look in dismay and with growing alarm at the Government's seeming apathy to the human plight plaguing those concerned. (details of the Shamala case.)
Most of the time, it is the women who have had to bear the anguish of their husband's actions - firstly, converting to Islam and then, converting the children without their knowledge nor consent.
Who knows the depths of sufferings these affected ones go through? Their gripping fears of losing their children? The anguish of their spouses' betrayal? Their frustrations at being tossed around by the courts? And even after the courts have decided in their favour, their despair at the police's apparent uncooperative attitude towards enforcing the court's orders as in the case of Indira Gandhi.
We pray for these suffering souls that they will find justice and relief. We pray for wisdom for their lawyers. We pray that the Attorney-General will act quickly, despite our cynicism.
We pray for a firm stance on the Government's part to resolve the issue. We pray against the Government being cowed to retract its decision by certain quarters.
We continue to pray because we look to a God who cares for the oppressed.
Educate our People on Consequences of Converting
Meanwhile, it is needful to educate our people, particularly the youths, on the consequences of converting to Islam.
We believe in and uphold the fundamental right of every individual to choose his religion.
However, before deciding to follow a religion, it is crucial to know the legal implications, if any, attached to converting to that religion.
In Malaysia, converting to Islam carries serious legal consequences, which many are unaware of despite the numerous high-profile court cases.
The article below sheds light on some of the consequences.
Conversion to Islam and Family Life
IN the context of the multi -racial, -social and -religious society in Malaysia where Islam is the religion of the Federation, conversion to Islam affects a person's daily life. Family life is no exception and there are serious implications and consequences affecting a person and his family should he/she convert to Islam. What are some important implications and consequences?
Firstly, if you convert to Islam, your legal status is changed. Your conversion to Islam will be registered with the Religious Department and the National Registration Department, both of which are computerised, so that access to this information is available throughout the country.
You will be issued a "conversion certificate" by the Islamic religious authorities to certify you are now a Muslim and this new religious status of yours may be captured in your MyKad.
In addition, you will be given a new name, usually a Malay name to signify your conversion to Islam.
Secondly, with your conversion to Islam, you will be expected to adhere to Islamic requirements or stipulations according to the Administration of Islamic enactments found in most of the 13 states of Malaysia. What are some of these requirements or stipulation?
- Conversion back to your former religion is either not allowed or treated as a criminal offence which means you may be fined, whipped, detained or imprisoned.
- If you have children under 18 years of age, your children will follow you and likewise be treated as Muslims subjected to the same Islamic law enactment.
- Even if you have not been a practising Muslim or observed actively the religion of Islam, your records and identification documents will show your conversion to Islam. Hence, you may be fined, whipped, detained or imprisoned for violation of Syariah laws, such as praying in church, eating in public during the Muslim's fasting month, khalwat (close proximity), etc.
- You cannot marry a non-Muslim. If you decide to divorce and attempt to convert out of Islam, you will lose custody of your children because they are Muslims.
- Upon death, your non-Muslim relatives will lose their rights to any money, property, inheritance, etc. that you may want to leave to them. The corpse of a convert to Islam will be taken away from his or her non-Muslim family for Islamic rites and burial even if you have not been a practising Muslim.
Thirdly, if you are married and should your spouse choose to convert to Islam, this will not affect you personally but it will bring about uncertainties in your family life, such as:
- The converted spouse may take your children with him or her, in which case your children may be regarded as Muslims. Should you decide to resist or challenge that, it is unclear how the authorities may decide as one spouse is a Muslim and the other is not.
- In such case, the family unit is usually split and may cause turmoil and unnecessary stress to family life. This is illustrated in the ongoing Indira Gandhi and S. Shamala cases.
- When your spouse converts to Islam, you may have no right to either your children or your spouse's property.
We know some Christians who have converted to Islam are not aware of or have not seriously thought through the implications of their conversion.
Hopefully, the points raised above will shed some light on this thorny issue that has brought much grief to those affected.
We wish to stress that we are not against any decision to follow Islam or any other religion because we subscribe to the freedom of religion guaranteed for all Malaysians in Article 11 of our Constitution.
But to choose correctly, you need to know well what you are choosing and the consequences of your choice.