KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 ― While M. Indira Gandhi won her case at the Federal Court against the conversion of her three children to Islam without her consent, a few other women were not so fortunate.
The apex court’s decision to nullify the unilateral conversion of Indira’s children ― which was done by her Muslim convert ex-husband who also abducted their youngest child nine years ago at the age of 11 months ― was the opposite of a previous verdict in another case of unilateral child conversion ― R. Subashini’s case.
The Federal Court yesterday ruled that according to the Federal Constitution, the consent of both parents is needed to convert a minor, while another apex court panel in Subashini’s case had interpreted the Constitution to only require the permission of one parent.
Here are three cases of the unilateral conversion of minors to Islam.
In 2012, Izwan Abdullah, formerly known as N. Viran, converted his children, V. Mithran and V. Sharmila, without the knowledge of their mother, S. Deepa.
Izwan then applied and was given custody of the children by the Seremban Shariah court and changed Viran and Shamila's name to Nur Nabila Izwan and Muhammad Nabil Izwan respectively.
Deepa applied for and won in 2014 custody of her two children at the Seremban High Court.
Despite the Seremban High Court’s custody orders, Izwan reportedly abducted his son.
In 2016, the Federal Court split custody of the two children, granting Nabil to Izwan while Shamila was given to Deepa, after the judges spoke to both children about which parent they wished to remain with.
The panel recorded agreement by Deepa and her ex-husband to access their children once every two months on a Saturday, at the home of the children's Muslim maternal grandmother Siti Aishah Abdullah, who is also Deepa's mother.
In July 2006, R. Subashini received a notice from the Registrar of the Shariah High Court Kuala Lumpur that her husband had commenced proceedings in the Shariah High Court for divorce and custody of their eldest son.
This was because her husband, T. Saravanan or now known as Muhammad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah, converted himself and their elder son to Islam in May 2006.
The couple, married since July 2001 under Hindu rites and registered under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, have two children ― Dharvin Joshua and Sharvin.
After discovering Shafi’s custody application in the Shariah Court, Subashini filed a petition on August 4, 2006, which was after the husband’s conversion, for dissolution of the marriage and an application for custody and ancillary reliefs in the civil High Court.
In September 2006, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed Subashini’s application to stop Shafi from resolving their marital problems in the Shariah court.
The Federal Court decided, in a 2-1 decision in 2007, that the unilateral conversion of Subashini’s eldest son was constitutional, interpreting the word “parent” in Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution to be singular.
Article 12(4) states that “the religion of a person under the age of eighteen years shall be decided by his parent or guardian.”
In the same judgement, the apex court also decided that the Shariah Court cannot dissolve a civil marriage and all dissolutions made in the religious court are only effective and applicable within the confines of Islamic law.
In 2002, Dr Jeyaganesh C. Mogarajah embraced Islam and subsequently converted his two sons to Islam without the knowledge and consent of his wife, S. Shamala.
Dr Jeyaganesh, now known as Dr Muhammad Ridzwan, also obtained custody of both sons from the Shariah court in 2003.
Following the Shariah court’s decision, Shamala applied to the civil High Court for the custody of her sons.
The High Court granted joint custody to both parents on July 20, 2004, but Shamala was prohibited from teaching her children Hinduism and from allowing them to eat pork.
Shamala later reportedly fled to Australia that year with her two children.
This led the Federal Court in 2010 to avoid hearing constitutional issues regarding the conversion of children to Islam without the consent of both parents.
The majority of the panel also declined to grant time to Shamala to return to Malaysia to appear in the court to determine her referral application.
In 2011, Shamala withdrew her legal representative as she who did not want to pursue her civil case concerning her children's custody, following three appeals made by her husband.
She cited that there was no legal remedy following the Federal Court's decision to decline to answer five constitutional questions.