While the Federal Constitution allows for one parent to decide on the conversion of their underage children, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin cautioned that such cases should be handled “delicately and with sensitivity”.
The Deputy Prime Minister said there should be a better approach that could be accepted by all so there would be no problems arising from the move by a parent to convert the minors.
“The Federal Constitution does not prohibit this (unilateral decision to convert minors), hence they can use the available avenues to do so. However, since Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country, there are matters that need to be closely looked into to avoid problems when dealing with such cases,” he said.
Muhyiddin said when a husband converts his children without discussing the matter first with his former wife, it causes problems to the family.
“While what the man did was not wrong and is allowed, the move would cause a lot of problems. That is why we need to find an approach that is fair to all parties concerned,” he told reporters after closing the 14th Science Council of Asia International Conference here yesterday.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom had said earlier this week the Government had no plans to amend current laws that provide for only one of the parents to give his or her consent for a child to be converted to another faith.
He cited Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution as stipulating the conversion of a child below 18 could be determined by a mother, father or a guardian.
In April 2009, the Cabinet reportedly decided to prohibit unilateral child conversions.
On the issue of the Bibles seized from the Bible Society of Malaysia, Muhyiddin said the Selangor authorities, be it Jais or the Mentri Besar, must heed the Sultan’s directive on the issue.
“The Sultan of Selangor has the authority when it comes to religious matters and the state authorities must follow and respect his orders.”