country of Malaysia, there exist a unique culture that consists of many races
and cultures. The luxury of the flexibility of religion had been evident in
Malaysia since the age of independence for our country, and the requirement to
achieve such feat of choosing your religion from your own conscious decision is
eighteen years old. There are events where minors change their religion due to
their parents’ choice is allowed whereas another way is make their own rightful
decision but this needs much consideration before a decision that will be made
by a minor. This topic aims to expand the thoughts surrounding the issues of
the change of minors to Islam, by starting off from investigating the meaning
of a minor itself, and to research on the laws that intertwine with the
transformation of this matter and with some cases to be added to act as a
backbone to this issue.
KEYWORDS: Flexibility of religion,
Change of Minors, Conversion, Transformation, Islam.
Malaysia is known as multi-ethnic and
multi-religious country. The Federal Constitution of Malaysia guarantees
freedom of religion where every person is granted the right to profess and
practise, and, subject to certain restrictions, to promulgate his or her
religion. Though not expressly stated, it may be implied that such right shall
include the right to change one’s religion or belief. Otherwise, it will render
the freedom of religion as enshrined in Art 11 of the Federal Constitution
illusory or ineffective and fall short of the international human rights
However, the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by
his or her parent or guardian2.
In Malaysia, Syariah Courts only have jurisdiction
over persons professing the religion of Islam. Questions arise as to what
extent a non-Muslim parent has the right to determine the religion of the child
if the spouse embraces Islam and the impact of the child’s conversion to Islam
on the custody dispute between the parents3.
Such questions, if left unattended, will lead to social tension and
disintegrate the religious cohesion in the country, which is detrimental to the
national unity4. Non-Muslim marriages in
Malaysia are governed by the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (“LRA”)5.
The LRA specifically excludes its application to Muslims, except where a
petition for divorce is filed by the non-converting spouse against the
converted spouse on the ground of conversion to Islam as provided in s 51 of
the LRA. Hence, conversion to Islam of one spouse can be a ground for the
non-converting spouse to petition for divorce and seek ancillary relief6.
However, it is observed that the Islamic law as
contained in the various state enactments and the federal statute have
distinguished the parental right over a child’s religion based on the religion
of the parents, particularly the converted parent, at the time the child is
born. It seems that the non-converting parent has no right to determine the
child’s religion if such child is born after another spouse embraces Islam and
the civil marriage has not been dissolved. This is because the various state
enactments in Malaysia define “Muslim” as, inter alia, “a person either or both
of whose parents were at the time of the person’s birth, a Muslim.
2. FREEDOM OF RELIGION
The freedom of religion has become a main topic in our
country. There are a lot of opinion from the Muslims towards this topic. There
are 70% or more Muslims in each country surveyed in these regions hold a view
about they are free to practice any faith they want. 7Notwithstanding
flexibility for themselves, most Muslims trust people from different religions
can hone their faith straightforwardly. 8Among
Muslims who say individuals of various religions are allowed to rehearse their
faith, seventy five percent or more in every nation say this is something worth
being thankful for. For a certain something, it is tucked away in the real
worldwide human rights traditions. 9
It can likewise be gotten from the estimation of religion itself, in
which individuals over a tremendous assortment of times and places have looked
for satisfaction. Recognizing that religion will be at its practically true
when it may be uninhibitedly picked, those Determination that those state ought
further bolstering guarantee the benefit should search then afterward that
fulfilment unhindered takes after regularly10.
At long last, the Muslim world likewise contains religiously free
administrations, adding much further unpredictability to the negative judgment
of the satellite view11. Cases of such
administrations incorporate Kosovo, Djibouti, Albania, Mali, Senegal and Sierra
Leone– the greater part of them observably outside the Arab world12. These administrations
– around one-fourth of Muslim-larger part nations – demonstrate that the dissent
of religious opportunity is a long way from the entire story in the Muslim
There might be no efficient clarification for why these nations are
religiously free. For a few, the underlying foundations of flexibility may lie
in a specific type of Islamic philosophy or culture that encapsulates
resilience. In others, opportunity may have emerged through a modus vivendi
among Islam and different religions eventually in the nation’s history. These
cases, however, demonstrate that Muslim populaces can, in specific situations,
demonstrate neighbourly to religious opportunity13.While Islam may endure
a shortage of religious flexibility in the total, Islam isn’t really the
explanation for this deficiency. Mainstream abusive governments are a broad
wellspring of constraint in the Muslim world. 14Indeed, even Islamist
administrations frequently have their inception in chronicled conditions that
give a false representation of a simple linkage of Islamic lessons with
religious constraint. This joined with the nearness of religiously free nations
in Islam, focuses to the likelihood that religious opportunity in the Muslim
world may extend15.
Generally speaking, Muslims comprehensively bolster the possibility of
religious freedom16. Most of the Muslims
have the opinion about the freedom of religion is actually good for them17. The matter of the freedom of religion has been addressed by Allah
Himself in a few verses in the Al-Quran:
have not sent you (O Muhammad) but to all mankind as a giver of good news and as
a warner, but most people do not know18.” (Quran 34:28)
seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the
Hereafter he will be one of the losers19.” (Quran 3:85)
there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever
rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold
that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things20.” (Quran 2:286)
cannot guide whomever you wish, but it is Allah who guides whomever He
wishes, and He knows best those who are guided21.” (Quran 28:56)
Article 12(4) of the Federation Constitution
Federal Constitution (hereinafter FC), Article 12 (4) stated that for the
purposes of Clause (3) the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall
be decided by his parent or guardian. Article 12(3) for FC also mentioned that
no person shall be required to receive instruction in or take part in any
ceremony or act of worship of a religion other than his own22.Article
160 and the Eleventh Schedule of the Federal Constitution should be apply so
that the word “his” would also mean “her”.
If not, the words will be interpreted literally as they appear, then
Articles 12(3) and (4) of FC would only be applicable to the conversions of
males under the age of eighteen years, and would not apply to females. It is
clear to say that the discrimination of gender in this 2 Article is not the
original intention of such a provision in the Federal Constitution23.
main controversy raised from the word “parent” used in Article 12(4) of
FC. As the “word “parent” is expressed
in singular form, some may defined that only one parent’s consent is needed to
convert a minor’s religion24.
However, some opposed by saying that the expression “parent” in singular form
also contain the plural meaning “parents”. It is beyond doubt that it is
against the Parliament’s purpose if only one parent’s consent is required under
Article 12(4) of FC.25 Based
on Oxford English Dictionary26, the
definition of the word “parent” is “a father or mother”. The phrase “or” used
in the definition emphasised that that a parent means either a father or a
mother. According to The Kamus Dwibahasa Oxford Fajar, the word “parent” is
defined as “ibu-bapa”. The omission of the conjunctive “atau” (or) is confusing
and unclear. 27
this is just the general definition of the word, it is not uncommon that
ordinary dictionary defined words differently from an Act of Parliament or a
State Enactment. Therefore, generally, there will a specific section in every
statute to define certain words to make the meaning of the words clear in the
structure of a sentence within specific provision28. In
addition, Article 160 (1) which is the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution
clearly provides that the words in the singular include the plural, and words
in the plural include the singular. Section 4(3) of the Interpretation Acts
1948 and 1967 carries the same meaning which provides that words and
expressions in the singular include the plural, and words and expressions in
the plural include the singular29. The
Bahasa version of FC also provides “Perkataan dalam bilangan tunggal
termasuklah bilangan jamak, dan perkataan dalam bilangan jamak termasuklah
bilangan tunggal.” It can be concluded that words and expressions which are in
singular they include plural and plural include singular is constitutionally
and commonly accepted legal position. The Federal Constitution which was in
English was translated into the National language of Malaysia which is Malay language.
Article 160B of FC was inserted to give effect to the translation and provides
that the national language text of the Constitution shall prevail over the
English language text if any conflict arises between this 2 languages.
confusion came to light when the word “parent” has been translated as “ibu atau
bapa” (mother or father). In the National language version, Article 12(4) of FC
has been translated as “Bagi maksud Fasal (3) agama seseorang yang di bawah
umur 18 tahun hendaklah ditetapkan oleh ibu atau bapanya atau penjaganya.” When
Article 12(4) of FC in the English version is read along with Article 160(1) of
FC and the Interpretation Acts 1948 and 1967, it is clearly understood that the
religion of a person under 18 years shall be decided by his parents. On the
other hand, Bahasa version of Article 12(4) provides that either father or
mother could decide the religion of a person under the age of 18, thus the
original meaning and intention had been lost. 30 In
certain conditions, a single parent could decide the religion of a minor if one
of the other biological parents or one of the legally adoptive parents had
passed away. It also seems like the translator did not think of special
composition of the Malaysian society which is multi-racial and multi religious31.
stage of confusion is portrayed in the State Enactments. In the State
Enactments regarding the Administration of Islam, majority of the States use
the words “ibu atau bapa” to consent the conversion of a minor. Nevertheless,
Penang, Selangor, Sabah use “ibu dan bapa” in the same provision32. The
difference or error in the translation of Article 12(4) of FC is too obvious as
the translation has disregard the changing fact when words are expressed in
singular or plural form33.
4. CONVERSION OF MINOR IN
Many non-Muslim spouse has converted their
under 18 children’s religion after converting themselves to Islam34.
They were unaware and not consent about this issue. The Bill tabled by the
Government to amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 in 2016.
This is to ensure that both parents must consent to the conversion of the child
under 18 years old35. A
new section, Section 88A will be inserted through the amendment which makes
clear that both parents in a civil marriage must agree to the conversion of a
minor into Islam as the law is silent on this aspect currently. In this
Section, a child after attaining the age of majority has the right to decide on
the issue of his or her religion36.
In Indira Gandhi a/p Mutho v Pengarah Jabatan
Islam Perak and Ors37,
the Ipoh High Court qua Family Court, the conversion of religion by their changed
over the father, was constrained to between common law and Islamic law in
Malaysia. The High Court subdued the minor youngsters’ conversion to Islam by
the father without the knowledge of mother and stated that the conversion is
null and void. 38The
issues in Indira Gandhi as chose by the High Court was the minor youngsters can
be changed over and if the non-changing over parent to be heard before, also, without
the ward to settle on the defensive ability of issues said to be inside its
select domain, Federal Constitution did not take away the forces of the common
High Courts the minute an issue came extremely close to the Syariah Courts, the
last being only an animal of state law39.
The interest to the Federal Court was heard in late 2016 yet the peak court
still can’t seem to issue its choice40.”Parent”
covers both the father and mother of the youngster41. The father is the parent as well as the
mother. A father and a mother joined together and become “parent”. For
the disable child, the father cannot decided the child’s religion but the
mother could do so. 42
The genuine reason for the adjustment in the
Article12 (4) might be perused as “chosen by his parents”. Two
guardians can’t be of one personality .The same ought to apply uniformly and
similarly to a wide range of change. The assent of the changed over parent
would do the trick44.
Where they can’t concur on the religion of the minor youngster yet that for
transformation to Islam. This is the problems whether this was affected by or
come about because of the current pattern of the court choices which deciphered
Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution.
Just enduring the consent of one parent
understanding that the other parent had dissented would provoke a not as much
as the alluring state, without a doubt, of reiterated changes of one parent of
the child against the difference in the other. 45Or
then again as by virtue of a difference in the minor child to Islam by the
changed over parent, the non-changing over parent is said to have no locus to
challenge the authenticity of the Certificate of Conversion which is last and
legitimate and that once changed over into Islam no one can change over the
minor youth out of Islam46.
(Subashini Rajasingam v. Saravanan Thangathoray).
conversion of minor in Malaysia is a very essential matter to look into47.
In the process of conversion, a minor must and have to follow accordingly to
the legal procedures that are stated and given by the Federal Constitution48.
It is also very important to guarantee that the issue of transformation does
not come in the method for guaranteeing the youngster’s welfare and the
following custodial obligations by the questioning guardians49.
In addition, it is an essential and it should be highly looked up in the matter
of building up an exceptional branch of legal with blended purview where both Syariah
and common law judges can sit and mediate instances of transformation and
religious personality of the youngster50.