KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 ― As debate reignites over unilateral child conversions and interfaith custody disputes, Muslim minister Nancy Shukri expressed today her personal commitment to carry out law reforms, saying she does not want her religion misused by individuals for their own ends.
The de facto law minister was responding to a DAP MP who pressed the government on its commitment to a 2009 Cabinet decision that affirmed a child would not be unilaterally converted to another religion when one parent does.
“What has become your worry ― seven years, I am also worried, because this has already become my responsibility here to ensure that we solve this problem.
“And this is not just for politics, because I as a Muslim, I also do not want our religion to be toyed with, don't want people to misuse religion as an excuse to achieve their desires. So this has become our joint responsibility in this House, so if there are good suggestions, we are ready to carry it,” the minister in the Prime Minister's Department told Parliament during Question Time.
Nancy had also explained that the government's draft for law reforms is already “ready”, but said the minister in charge of Islamic affairs is still collecting feedback on the proposed legal changes.
Opposition lawmaker Kasthuri Patto had pressed Nancy for answers on when the government would table a Bill in Parliament to give effect to the 2009 Cabinet decision.
“After seven years, why has there not been any reforms? I understand, but it's been seven years already, nothing has happened, so there's no meaning to the Cabinet decision for seven years, nothing has been executed.
“But there has been so many other decisions made by the Cabinet that have been executed immediately, but this one, they are dragging their feet, seven years already,” the Batu Kawan MP said.
“Where is the justice for these two mothers?” she asked, referring to Hindu mothers M. Indira Gandhi and S. Deepa.
In her supplementary Parliamentary question earlier, Kasthuri had highlighted that the two court cases also revolve around the dispute oer child custody and “injustice” to the mothers that she said were in pain due to their separation from their children.
Last December 30, Indira lost a challenge at the Court of Appeal where the judges in a 2-1 decision said that only the Shariah court can decide on the validity of the unilateral conversion of her three children to Islam by her Muslim convert ex-husband Muhammad Riduan Abdullah.
Like Perak-based Indira, S. Deepa's estranged Muslim convert husband Izwan Abdullah had unilaterally converted her two children and obtaining custody in the Shariah courts, before later snatching away her son.
The Federal Court had on February 10 varied a High Court custody order of the Negri Sembilan mother’s two children; Deepa gained custody of the daughter, 11, while Izwan got their eight-year-old son, maintaining the status quo since the snatching.
Last September, Nancy said the Attorney-General’s Chambers is mulling the amendment to three laws to resolve the conflict of jurisdiction between the civil courts and the Shariah courts when a spouse converts to Islam, namely the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 and Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984.
No new Bill by the government to address such disputes were spotted in the Parliament's order paper today.