Wednesday, July 3, 2013

RLPB 217. Malaysia: move to legalise forced conversion of minors

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 217 | Wed 03 Jul 2013


By Elizabeth Kendal

In early 2009 there was an outcry in Malaysia after three children born to an Indian Hindu couple were converted to Islam by the father without the mother's consent after he converted to Islam. At that time, the Cabinet discussed the case and decided that the children of an estranged couple should remain in the 'common religion of the parents at the time of their marriage'. In Malaysia, Cabinet decisions are essentially unwritten laws that civil servants are obliged to implement. Despite the April 2009 Cabinet decision, Islamic officials have continued to convert minors at the request of one parent, without the consent of the other. For example, in April 2013 an estranged husband, who converted from Hinduism to Islam in prison, secretly took his two children aged 5 and 8 to an Islamic Centre where they were officially converted to Islam and given Islamic names. When their Hindu mother sought redress she was told that because her children were now Muslims she would have to go through the Sharia courts. Believing that to be futile and possibly even dangerous, in early June she opted instead to lodge a complaint with the police. This case triggered a fresh outcry when it was exposed in the media. [Note: in Islam, the Islamic State determines and manages a person's religion; it is not a matter of personal freedom.]

In Malaysian politics, a draft law or 'bill' is discussed and approved by the Cabinet before it is submitted to the Parliament. Yet on Wednesday 26 June a bill permitting the unilateral conversion of minors into Islam went to the Parliament without first going to the Cabinet. If passed, the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 will replace the 1993 Act. This bill would further Islamise Malaysian law by mandating that a minor may be converted to Islam by 'his parent' (singular). The bill employs the same language as the Constitution (Article 12(4)). However, Article 160(1) of the Constitution clarifies that the Constitution is to be interpreted according to the 'Eleventh Schedule' which states: 'words importing the masculine gender include females'; and 'words in the singular include the plural, and words in the plural include the singular'. As such, it has always been understood that where the Constitution says 'his' it includes 'her' where relevant, and where it says 'parent' it may be interpreted as 'parents' where both parents are alive.

Because the bill bypassed the Cabinet it was introduced into Parliament without any scrutiny from the Cabinet's non-Muslim members, leaving non-Muslim MPs feeling betrayed and marginalised. Malaysia is 50 percent ethnic Malay and 60 percent Muslim, but a significant proportion of those Muslims would be nominal or secular. The government was wrong if it thought it could get passage of this bill by stealth, for the bill has caused an outcry, particularly amongst Malaysia's non-Muslims. Despite this, the government is standing firm. On 1 July Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin insisted that the bill would proceed despite it being contrary to the April 2009 Cabinet decision, maintaining it is based on the Constitution, court precedents and present realities.

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) has slammed the 'stealthy' tabling of the bill. As MCA vice president Gan Ping Sieu notes, 'It contains controversial provisions that affect the constitutional and religious rights of the non-Muslim. This will seriously and irredeemably affect the religious harmony and national unity of our country.' According to the Malaysian Bar Council President, Christopher Leong, the unilateral conversion of minors is unconstitutional. Roman Catholic Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing comments: 'I understand this amendment contravenes a decision by the Cabinet announced on 23 April, 2009 that a single parent cannot convert a minor. If so, this would not be the first time that the Cabinet is overridden by civil service functionaries -- the main drivers of creeping Islamisation in this country.'

It is not uncommon to find non-Muslims (including nominal and backsliding Christians) converting to Islam for personal gain: in particular, men converting to Islam so they can take another wife. If passed, this bill will legalise the forced conversion of non-Muslim children. And as the bill states (Article 99): 'From the moment of his conversion, a mualaf (convert) becomes subject to the same duties and obligations as any other Muslim.' For the sake of vulnerable children, we must pray against this bill.

'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' (Jesus: Matthew 19:14 ESV)


* the Spirit of the Lord will arouse passionate indignation in all Malaysians who treasure personal liberty and the fundamental human rights of children, so that this bill will not pass and the loopholes will be tightened to protect vulnerable children from Islamic mischief.

* God will halt the Islamisation of Malaysia and that the Malaysian Church looks to the Lord of Hosts who has promised to be 'strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate' (from Isaiah 28:5-6 ESV).

* our faithful Lord Jesus Christ will establish justice for all Christian children and parents who have been robbed through Islamic mischief, not only in Malaysia, but in Egypt (where it is also uncommon) and throughout the Islamic world.


Ramadan commences on 9 July and will run through to 7 August. Please pray for Muslims during the 30 days of Ramadan. For resources, visit 30-Days.


On 26 June a bill that would further Islamise Malaysian law went to the parliament. It provides that a minor may be converted to Islam by 'his parent' (singular) without the consent of the other parent. Thus a parent who (for whatever reason of self-interest) has converted to Islam could get their children registered as Muslims. (Christian parents and children suffer this mischief throughout the Islamic world.) The government was wrong in thinking it could get the bill through by stealth as it has caused an outcry, particularly amongst non-Muslims. May the Malaysian Church, amidst all this, look to the Lord of Hosts to be her strength. Please pray against this bill, for the sake of Malaysia, its children, the Church and all others vulnerable in this situation.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)