KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — Perlis lawmakers who passed an amendment to permit unilateral conversion were disregarding the suffering that the practice could cause, according to Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.
The former de facto law minister said while the Muslim assemblymen who voted in favour of the change may believe they were acting for the benefit of their faith, they were being unfair to the families who would be affected.
“How would they feel if (hypothetically) a non-Muslim parent could unilaterally convert a Muslim child to Hinduism or Christianity? They would cry: that’s not fair. The whole country would be in turmoil,” he wrote on his blog today.
“And yet these same Muslims don’t think about treating others with fairness because others cannot convert their Muslim children. They are spared the need to reciprocate and be reasonable. That’s what too much power can do to Malays.”
Non-Muslims are forbidden by law to proselytise to or convert Muslims in Malaysia, but not vice versa.
Perlis last week amended its Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006 from requiring the consent of both parents or a guardian, to the consent of one parent or guardian.
The move came after Putrajaya tabled an amendment to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 last month that would prohibit unilateral conversions.
Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin also criticised the change in the state law, saying it was against a fatwa (edict) issued in 2015.
Today, Zaid told those who insisted that unilateral conversion was acceptable for allowing non-Muslims to embrace Islam, reminding them that the religion taught followers not to ignore the suffering of others.
“There are clear passages in the Quran enjoining us to feel the pain and misery of other human beings and to empathise and sympathise. Verse after verse demands that we love humankind and do justice to all, regardless of creed. Only those who do this will receive blessings from Allah.”
He then urged all federal lawmakers, particularly Muslims, to support Putrajaya’s proposed amendments to the LRA, and to put an end to the problem of unilateral conversions in Malaysia.
Putrajaya finally tabled the amendment last month, in the most direct step to address the long-standing problem since the Cabinet issued a directive in 2009 banning unilateral child conversions; the directive had no legal power, however, and the problem persisted.
The proposed changes to the LRA include explicitly stating that “both parties” in a civil marriage must agree for the conversion of a minor into Islam and to limit interfaith divorces to the civil courts, among others.