The original version of the Federal Constitution has indicated that both parents have equal authority in determining the religion of their minor child, claimed MCA.
Its syariah law and policy implementation special task force deputy chairman Datuk Koo Chin Nam said the word “ibu-bapa” was originally used in Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution in the versions printed up to 1970.
However, he added, the word – which means mother and father according to Kamus Dewan – had been mysteriously changed to read “ibu atau bapa (mother or father)” in later editions of the constitution.
The article now reads “agama seseorang yang di bawah umur 18 tahun hendaklah ditetapkan oleh ibu atau bapanya atau penjaganya (the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian)”.
“There appears to be an editorial misconstruction by the authorities involved. Putrajaya must address this change of words and rectify the error,” said Koo in a statement here yesterday.
It was unwise, he said, for Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Jamil Khir Baharom to have said that current laws allow for the unilateral conversion of children based on a “misinterpreted version” of the Federal Constituion.
Koo also said that custody battles between Muslim and non-Muslim parents would leave the child confused and even traumatised.
“The only way to come out of this religious imbroglio, which is clearly tearing families and communities apart, is for the Cabinet to amend Article 12(4) to read that the consent of both parents is required on deciding a minor child’s religion.
“Failing which, the child’s religion shall remain status quo until he or she reaches the age of majority, that is 18 years, upon which the child shall then determine,” added Koo.
MCA lauded the Attorney-General’s decision to press charges against 19 people for sedition or criminal trespass, saying the move would prevent further efforts to undermine national harmony.
“It will also serve to remind others not to trifle with the law and that we should all have mutual respect for each other,” said its deputy secretary-general Datuk Wee Jeck Seng.
Yesterday, four people, including Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, were charged at separate courts with sedition.
Also charged were 15 men who trespassed into the Penang state legislative assembly last month with the intention of inciting fear to assembly secretary M. Maheswari.