ICC NOTE: A Malaysian court ruled today that matters pertaining to marriages of differing faiths will be dealt with in civil court, not Sharia court. Two cases have arisen in the last two years regarding a Muslim father and non-Muslim mother entering custody battles for their children. The first case was brought before Sharia court, a Muslim religious court, where the Muslim father was able to gain custody of his newly converted children from their Christian mother. The recent case was heard by a civil court in determining whether religious courts had jurisdiction over non-Muslim marriages. The court ruled unless both parties are Muslim it must be done so in a civil court. The decision is beneficial for religious minorities as they will have the benefit of having their cases heard in secular courts rather than religious courts.
2/10/2016 Malaysia (Malaysian Insider) – A non-Muslim umbrella body today said civil and Shariah courts should heed the Federal Court decision in the custody case involving S. Deepa and her ex-husband Izwan Abdullah, when it ruled that religious courts can only hear a case if both parties are Muslim.
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) hoped that the civil court would not refuse jurisdiction in dealing with custody matters arising from unilateral conversion of children when a spouse becomes a Muslim.
“MCCBCSHT hopes that Shariah courts will take notice of this Federal Court decision which clearly stated that religious courts only have jurisdiction only when both parties are Muslims,” its vice-president Jagir Singh said in a statement.
A five-man bench chaired by Tan Sri Raus Sharif today unanimously ruled that the civil court should decide the custody of children when it involved a non-Muslim parent.
Raus said a non-Muslim marriage did not dissolve when one party embraced Islam.
“Divorce and custody of non-Muslim marriages are exclusive jurisdiction of the civil court,” he said in dismissing Muslim convert Izwan’s appeal.
Jagir (pic, left), who is also a lawyer, said the Federal Court decision reconfirmed an earlier apex court ruling that Parliament in enacting the Law Reform Act 1976 (Marriage and Divorce) did not allow a convert to evade his or her legal obligations under a non-Muslim marriage.