Hadi wants special committee to study bill on child conversion

Abdul-Hadi-Awang_law_islam_new_600PETALING JAYA: PAS has proposed a special committee to review provisions in the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Act 2016 or Act 164 that prevents a parent who has converted to Islam from unilaterally doing the same to his or her own underage child.

Its president, Abdul Hadi Awang, said the bill, which was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat recently, could have a serious effect on the freedom of Muslims to practise their religion.

The amendment has been viewed as necessary to resolve problems that arise due to a minor being converted without the consent of the non-Muslim parent.

Hadi said the legislation needed to be “studied again in-depth” by the committee to find another way to resolve the issue in a fairer, more comprehensive and inclusive manner.

“This committee would need to involve all relevant parties, whether they be from the Muslim fraternity or those of other religions,“ he said in a statement today.

It would also need to gain the views of the National Fatwa Council, the Shariah Judiciary Department, legal practitioners, non-governmental organisations and others who have an active interest in the amendment.

He said Muslims had a right to defend their beliefs without disturbance from any parties.

The bill was tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said on Nov 21.

It puts in place legal safeguards against unilateral conversions of minors to Islam, and addresses disputes due to dissolution of marriage arising from a conversion by making clear that the couple can divorce in a civil court and not in a shariah court.

It features the new section 88A which requires the assent of both spouses from a civil marriage to change the religion of their underage child.

It empowers the civil courts to determine such cases even though one of the spouses has converted to Islam.

Several PAS leaders have signalled that the party would not support Act 164.

“This amendment will tear apart children’s faith (in Islam) and hand a victory to the cause of the Interfaith Commission which we had rejected before,” said PAS information chief Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi.

The party’s Youth chief, Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz, claimed the bill would undermine Islam and stop Muslims from practising their faith.

“Muslims are obligated to unite in rejecting this amendment… Umno would be fully responsible before God if the amendment to the Act is passed,” he said.

Hadi’s proposal comes a week after the Barisan Nasional announced it would not take over and table the private member’s bill seeking to impose heavier shariah punishments that Hadi had put forward in Parliament last year.

PAS had last November made a stand that it would not object to Act 164 if the MPs in the house did not go against Hadi’s bill.

“If they (non-Muslims) want to object to laws that only affect Muslims then we (Muslims) can also object to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Act,” its secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan had said.