KUALA LUMPUR: Religious affairs minister Idris Ahmad today characterised an apex court ruling requiring consent from both parents in converting a minor to Islam as an “interpretation” of the Federal Constitution.
He said that when it came to matters related to the administration of Islam, such as the conversion of minors, it was in the hands of the state to enact laws as they wish, which was a constitutional right that ought to be respected.
Idris said many Muslim children were taken care of by non-Muslim guardians and have been raised well.
“While the Federal Court has interpreted Article 12(4) to mean that both parents’ consent was needed, the most important thing here is the children’s welfare.
“And religion is an important aspect of welfare and the child’s best interest must be considered by all,” he said in reply to R Sivarasa’s (PH-Sungai Buloh) question in Parliament today.
Sivarasa had asked what the government was doing to standardise shariah laws in states with regard to unilateral conversions, based on the ruling by the Federal Court.
Idris said while the government took note of the issues related to unilateral conversions of late, the welfare of the children was paramount.
Sivarasa, in response, told Idris that once the Federal Court decides on something, it was the law, and the government must ensure states follow suit.
“It is not an issue of interpretation, it is the law when the Federal Court decides. When a minor is converted without both parents’ consent, the conversion is illegal.
“From your answer, the federal government appears to be turning a blind eye to a serious problem.
“The federal government should engage states to reduce any contradiction in terms of the law,” he said.
Hanipa Maidin (PH-Sepang) then interjected, saying that the issue was about people “running away” with kids and going to the shariah court on the pretext of “saving” them.
He said if the children’s parents were married under civil laws, then the civil courts should also look into matters relating to their offspring.
“The constitution is the highest law of the land, and we have agreed on this as part of our social contract to ensure the law’s supremacy. And when we try to degrade the constitution, we end up with problems,” he said.
However, Idris reiterated that the jurisdiction of the state and its powers in Islamic administration must be respected.