PUTRAJAYA: A state religious authority has gone to the Court of Appeal in a bid to vary a custody order issued in respect of three underage children who were unilaterally converted to Islam but now live under the care of their non-Muslim mother, Loh Siew Hong.
The Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Council (MAIPs) will have its appeal heard on Jan 10, the same day Loh’s own appeal to overturn another High Court ruling declaring her children Muslims following their conversion three years ago.
Loh’s lawyer, Gunamalar Joorindanjn, said MAIPs’s appeal was fast-tracked as it was filed under a certificate of urgency.
The early hearing date was given after a request made by Ali Huzaifah Sharif Ahmed, representing MAIPs, at case management yesterday.
On Oct 11, Justice Hayatul Akmal Abdul Aziz ruled that MAIPs’s application was not in the best interest of the children, who had reportedly told her that they did not intend to remain Muslims, thus giving rise to MAIPs’s appeal.
MAIPs had applied to vary a custody order obtained by Loh in her divorce from ex-husband Muhammad Nagahswaran Muniandy, who had converted to Islam.
MAIPs was asking for access to the children – twin girls, aged 15, and an 11-year-old boy – once a fortnight for them to be provided religious education and to participate in religious celebrations.
They also wanted the boy to be taken to a nearby mosque every week to perform Friday prayers.
MAIPs also wanted to provide financial assistance to the children and to pay an allowance to Loh as their caretaker.
The three children had been taken by Nagahswaran to Perlis on July 6, 2020, where they were converted to Islam without Loh’s consent. They were then placed under the care and control of preacher Nazirah Nanthakumari Abdullah.
On Feb 21 last year, the siblings were released to Loh after a High Court allowed her habeas corpus application.
On March 25 last year, Loh filed a suit seeking a declaration that a provision in the Perlis state enactment that allows a parent to unilaterally convert minor children was unconstitutional.
Loh said her children were legally incapable of embracing Islam without her consent as they were minors.
Loh, a Buddhist, contends that her former husband did not have the legal capacity to allow the relevant religious authorities to register their children as converts without her consent.
She also asked for a certiorari order to quash the registration of the children’s conversion into the Islamic faith by the registrar on July 7, 2020.
However, on May 11, Justice Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh dismissed her application. The judge said the conversion certificates issued were conclusive proof of the change in their religious faith.
Loh is appealing that decision.