After seven months, Hindu mum Loh Siew Hong finally begins legal fight against kids’ unilateral conversion to Islam

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — Seven months after Loh Siew Hong cleared the first legal hurdle last year to challenge her three children’s unilateral conversion to Islam without her consent, the Hindu mother will finally have her day in court today and her case merits will be heard.

In August, the High Court had granted Loh leave for her judicial review against the children’s unilateral conversion by her ex-husband without her consent and she is contesting that they were incapable of embracing Islam without her consent in 2019.

She had named the Registrar of Mualaf, Religious and Malay Customs Council of Perlis, besides Perlis state mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin and the Perlis state government as respondents.

Lawyers A. Srimurugan and Shamsher Singh Thind will appear for Loh in the virtual hearing fixed before High Court judge Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh at 9am today.

Timeline of events and other declarations sought

Among others, Loh is seeking declarations that her children are Hindu and that the children are legally unfit to embrace Islam without Loh’s approval.

She is also seeking a declaration that her former husband, Muhammad Nagashwaran Muniandy is legally unfit to allow the Registrar of Mualaf to convert their children without her approval.

Furthermore, Loh is seeking a certiorari — Latin for quashing order — to reverse her children’s registration of conversion to Islam dated July 7, 2020 issued by the registrar.

She is also seeking a declaration that the Perlis state’s legal provision that allows for one parent to unilaterally convert a child is unconstitutional.

Objecting to Loh’s bid, the named respondents contended that the mother was “out of time” to mount a legal challenge since the children were converted on July 7, 2020, whereby the application for leave should have been made within 90 days from the date.

Under Order 53, rule 3(6) of the Rules of Court, an application for judicial review shall be made promptly and in any event within three months from the date when the grounds of the application first arose or when the decision is first communicated to the applicant.

The Court however may, upon an application, extend the time specified in rule 4(1) and if it considers that there is a good reason for doing so.

Loh’s lawyer had then informed the court of their client’s discovery over the children’s conversion only when both sides reunited in February 2022, following which leave for the current judicial review bid was filed the following month.

For lawsuits filed through judicial review, applicants must first apply for leave — essentially permission — from the court before their arguments can be heard.

In December 2019, Loh obtained interim custody of her children pending her divorce, but her court case was delayed when the country went into Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020; she finally obtained an order granting her full and sole custody in March 2021.

On February 21 last year, Loh was finally reunited with her children after the High Court granted her a writ of habeas corpus for an immediate release of her three children from alleged unlawful detention.

In June 2022, the High Court had also quashed MAIP’s legal bid to intervene in a divorce petition between Loh and her ex-husband since it failed to show it was an interested party to be involved in the lives of the children when it applied for a variation on the terms of the sole custody order.

However, the June 2022 decision was set aside at the Court of Appeal in a three-judge panel’s unanimous decision in February this year, that would allow MAIP to file anew a bid to intervene for the purpose of varying a custody order granted to Loh.