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“It is outrageous and insulting” – Devamany on amendment to Perlis state Islamic laws!

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Kuala Lumpur – MIC Deputy President Datuk Seri S.K.Devamany has slammed the move by Perlis State Government’s move to amend the state Islamic laws on unilateral conversion of children under the age of 18.

“As the MIC Deputy President, I am in full support of our MIC President, Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam’s unequivocal objection towards the Perlis state government’s recent amendment of their Islamic enactment for unilateral conversion of a non-Muslim child without the consent of the non-converted parent, and totally denounce it. It is outrageous and insulting, to the non-Muslims of the state, as well as nation, because it adversely affects our (and our offspring, in this matter) constitutional right of freedom to practice religion” Devamany said in a press statement.

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“Malaysian marriages are subject to a dual legal system, whereby non-Muslims are governed by the Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act 1976 and Syariah Law governs Muslim marriages. As there are two parallel systems in place, in April 2009, the Cabinet decided that children of parents where one of them chooses to convert to Islam, must continue to be raised in the common religion at the time of the marriage. Unilateral conversion will now allow the conversion of children without the non-Muslim parent being given the opportunity to be heard, denying them their constitutional rights and that of their children” Devamany further noted in his statement.

Besides being blatantly unfair to non-Muslims, it entrenches inequalities in Malaysia, said Devamany. “The enactment of unilateral conversion implies that a Muslim parent, even if newly converted, has more rights than a non-Muslim parent. This is in contrary to Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law. The article further provides that there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the grounds of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender, in any law” continued Devamany in his statement.

“The Perlis state’s amendment is therefore in direct contradiction to the right of a child to practice his or her birthright religion. Who fights for their entitlement now that this right has been unilaterally and irrevocably removed? Where do we seek remedy when a child, a minor, born from a civil marriage is converted? No one can comprehend the distress and tribulations of this more than parents who have been at the receiving end of such discrimination, such as Madam S. Shamala (2004), Madam Subashini (2008) Madam M. Indira Gandhi and Mr Lee Chang Yong, to name a few who have suffered and are still suffering from an unjust system. It is very distressing to even think of the anguish these parents have been subjected to; to lose your minor child due to ambiguities of the law” Devamany said.

Noting that the Perlis state has the right to make amendments to their existing laws, Devamany urged the state government to be respectful and not to not offend the other religions practised there.

“In the name of a more harmonious and equitable Malaysia, I call for the Perlis government to repeal the provisions for unilateral conversion in their state enactment. Put an end to injustices suffered by non-Muslim spouses/parents; make it a requirement for BOTH parents to consent to the conversion of their minor child/children. The interests of a child’s welfare are of paramount importance. Equally, due consideration to the rights of our multi-faith communities should be given.  All state and federal laws should be amended towards a more integrated Malaysia. We all have a legal entitlement to our religion, irrespective of our age!” Devamany concluded in his press statement.