KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet has decided that children be raised in the “common religion at the time of marriage” should one of their parents convert.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abd Aziz said a spouse who had converted into Islam would also have to fulfil his or her marriage responsibilities and sort out issues according to civil marriage laws.
“Religion should not be used as a tool to escape marriage responsibilities. Conversion is not grounds for automatic dissolution of a marriage,” he told a press conference at Parliament House yesterday.
Nazri said the principles would apply to any disputes resulting from conversion, not necessarily just for conversions to Islam.
He said the effects of conversion should apply from the day of conversion.
“It was decided that conversion is not retrospective. Past acts should be resolved under the relevant civil laws. They should come clean as a convert,” he said.
Nazri said religious conversion must come with the innocent party being protected from being victimised besides giving protection under the new religion to the convert.
“The Cabinet feels there is constructive contract between the husband and wife as parties to the marriage that the children should be brought up in common religion at the time of marriage,” he said.
Nazri said the Cabinet instructed the Attorney-General to look at all relevant laws which needed to be amended in line with the decision.
For Islamic enactments, he said they would have to be brought up with Rulers as heads of religion in their respective states.
Nazri said the Cabinet made the decision following Indra Ghandhi’s case where her three children aged one, 11 and 12 were allegedly converted to Islam by her husband K. Patmanathan, now known as Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah, without her consent.
He allegedly used the children’s birth certificates to get them converted. The youngest child is said to be in the father’s custody.
Nazri said the Minister in charge of Islamic Affairs Mej-Gen (R) Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom would be meeting Patmanathan to settle the matter amicably in accordance with the Cabinet’s decision.
“When the youngest child, who is still being breast-fed by the mother, is taken away from her, it is definitely traumatic for the mother.
“This is not about conversion but being humane,” he said, adding that the baby should be returned immediately to the mother.
“We can immediately do what we have decided to do in areas where we are in control. However, where it involves the Perak Islamic Affairs, it will be beyond us.
“It is our hope that common sense will prevail and the issue can end tomorrow if common sense prevails,” he said.
He said the Cabinet would deal with outstanding issues by coming out with long-term and not piece-meal solutions.
He said the Government was willing to listen to feedback over its decisions.