Conversion to Islam without both parents’ consent: Indira Gandhi, two ‘victims’ file court challenge against such laws
KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — Two women who claimed to have been “victims” of unilateral conversion where they were converted to be Muslims as children without both parents’ consent, as well as Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi have filed a lawsuit against eight laws enabling unilateral conversion to Islam in seven states and Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan.
Indira, the two women named Aisyah Muhammad Ali and Mimi Mastura Abdullah, and 11 others filed the lawsuit at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on March 3 through an originating summons.
The eight respondents in the lawsuit were named as the state governments of Perlis, Kedah, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Johor and the government of the federal territories of Malaysia.
In the lawsuit, Indira and the 13 others are seeking for the High Court to declare the state enactments which allow the unilateral conversion of children into Islam as being void or invalid due to its breaching of the Federal Constitution, especially Article 12(4) and in light of the Federal Court’s 2018 decision.
Under Article 12(4), the religion of a person aged under 18 is to be decided by his “parent or guardian”.
The Federal Court had on January 29, 2018 already decided in a case — involving Indira’s successful challenge against her three children’s unilateral conversion into Islam by the Muslim convert ex-husband without her knowledge or consent — that the word “parent” in Article 12(4) is to be interpreted as “parents” if both are still alive.
In other words, the Federal Court had decided in 2018 in the Indira case that for children born from a civil marriage or a couple who were both non-Muslims, the consent of both the mother and the father (if both are still living) is required before a certificate of conversion to Islam can be issued to such children.
The other court orders that Indira and the 13 others are seeking include a declaration that the practice of unilateral conversion is unconstitutional and contrary to Article 12(4).
If the High Court declares the state laws enabling unilateral conversion to be invalid and declares unilateral conversion to be an unconstitutional practice, Indira and the 13 others are seeking for a further declaration that any and all unilateral conversions that took place in Malaysia before the Federal Court’s January 2018 decision in Indira’s case to be void or invalid for breaching Article 12(4).
Alternatively if the first two orders are granted, they want the court to require any and all unilateral conversions in Malaysia — after the Federal Court’s 2018 Indira decision — to require the consent of both parents, and to reverse the unilateral conversion of these children if either parent refuses to grant consent within a one-year period from the date of the court’s order in this lawsuit.
Indira and the 13 others who filed the lawsuit listed the eight laws which they say are unconstitutional due to their enabling of unilateral conversions of children to Islam with just the consent of either the mother or father, instead of requiring both parents to consent.
These eight laws are Perlis’s Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006’s Section 117, and its equivalent in other states: Administration of Islamic Law (Kedah Darul Aman) Enactment 2008’s Section 80; Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Malacca) Enactment 2002’s Section 105; Administration of the Religion of Islam (Negeri Sembilan) Enactment 2003’s Section 117; Pahang’s Administration of Islamic Law Enactment 1991’s Section 103; Administration of the Religion of Islam (Perak) Enactment 2004’s Section 106; Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Johor) Enactment 2003’s Section 117 and Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993’s Section 95.
Apart from Ipoh-based Indira and the two women, the others who filed the lawsuit include former Malaysian Hindu Sangam president and former Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) president S. Mohan; Arumugam Dorasamy or Arun Dorasamy who chairs the Indira Gandhi Action Team (I.N.G.A.T) and is a former Malaysia Hindu Sangam youth leader; and non-governmental organisation Pertubuhan Hindu Agamam Ani Malaysia dealing with the Hindu community’s social welfare.
The rest are all residents in the seven states and federal territories where the state laws are being challenged: Perlis, Kedah, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Johor and Kuala Lumpur.
In the lawsuit, Indira and the 13 others said that these state laws’ provisions for unilateral conversion of children is “unconstitutional” and has “led to, is leading and will lead to violation of rights” of those who had filed the lawsuit and every non-Muslim citizen of Malaysia “whose child or children may be unilaterally converted to Islam”.
In an affidavit by Aisyah, she said her father had converted her to Islam when she was aged nine at the Johor Islamic Religious Department at Kota Tinggi without her mother’s consent, adding however that she does not profess or practise Islam but instead practises Hinduism.
Similarly, Aisyah said Mimi Mastura was converted to Islam by her mother at the age of 10 without the father’s consent at the Johor Islamic Religious Department at Johor Bahru, but added that the latter also practises Hinduism and had at all times neither professed nor practised Islam.
Aisyah cited the Federal Constitution’s Article 4(1) which states the Federal Constitution to be Malaysia’s supreme law and states that any law inconsistent with it shall be made void or invalid, and also cited Article 75 where the federal law will prevail if any state law is inconsistent with federal laws.
Based on those two provisions, Aisyah said the courts can declare the eight listed legal provisions as being unconstitutional due to their contradiction with the Federal Constitution’s Article 12(4).
She also told the court that the lawsuit was filed to defend the fundamental liberties and rights of all non-Muslim citizens of Malaysia by challenging the constitutionality of the eight legal provisions.
The lawsuit is listed for case management today at the High Court.
Following the case management today before senior assistant registrar Mohamad Hafizul Awang, the case will come up for further case management on April 5.