Malaysia Moves to Legalize Forced Conversion of Children

ICC Note: Efforts are underway in Malaysia to legalize the forced conversion of children to Islam if one parent, usually the father, decides to convert. In Malaysia special legal status is granted to Muslim citizens and many nominal believers in other faiths sometimes convert in order to receive benefits. This has resulted in their children also being taken to Islamic Centers, given Muslim names, and declared officially Muslim, sometimes against the expresses wishes of the other parent. Christians are concerned that legalization of such forced conversion could see Christian children converted to Islam against their will and the will of one of the parents. 

7/3/2013 Malaysia (CIC) – In early 2009 there was an outcry in Malaysia after three children born to an Indian Hindu couple were converted to Islam by the father without the mother’s consent after he converted to Islam. At that time, the Cabinet discussed the case and decided that the children of an estranged couple should remain in the ‘common religion of the parents at the time of their marriage’. In Malaysia, Cabinet decisions are essentially unwritten laws that civil servants are obliged to implement.

Despite the April 2009 Cabinet decision, Islamic officials have continued to convert minors at the request of one parent, without the consent of the other. For example, in April 2013 an estranged husband, who converted from Hinduism to Islam in prison, secretly took his two children aged 5 and 8 to an Islamic Centre where they were officially converted to Islam and given Islamic names. When their Hindu mother sought redress she was told that because her children were now Muslims she would have to go through the Sharia courts. Believing that to be futile and possibly even dangerous, in early June she opted instead to lodge a complaint with the police. This case triggered a fresh outcry when it was exposed in the media. [Note: in Islam, the Islamic State determines and manages a person’s religion; it is not a matter of personal freedom.]

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) has slammed the ‘stealthy’ tabling of the bill. As MCA vice president Gan Ping Sieu notes, ‘It contains controversial provisions that affect the constitutional and religious rights of the non-Muslim. This will seriously and irredeemably affect the religious harmony and national unity of our country.’ According to the Malaysian Bar Council President, Christopher Leong, the unilateral conversion of minors is unconstitutional. Roman Catholic Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing comments: ‘I understand this amendment contravenes a decision by the Cabinet announced on 23 April, 2009 that a single parent cannot convert a minor. If so, this would not be the first time that the Cabinet is overridden by civil service functionaries — the main drivers of creeping Islamization in this country.’

It is not uncommon to find non-Muslims (including nominal and backsliding Christians) converting to Islam for personal gain: in particular, men converting to Islam so they can take another wife. If passed, this bill will legalize the forced conversion of non-Muslim children. As the bill states: ‘From the moment of his conversion, a mualaf (convert) becomes subject to the same duties and obligations as any other Muslim.’ For the sake of vulnerable children, we must pray against this bill.

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