KUALA LUMPUR – PAS called today for a special committee to review a government Bill to amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA) that will ban unilateral conversion of minors, among others.
The Islamist party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang argued that the Bill review is needed as it will seriously affect the freedom of Muslim to practise their religion, and prevent them from preserving their faith without external interference.
“PAS suggests for Act 164 is reviewed thoroughly, through a special committee to draft and propose a solution that is fairer, holistic and inclusive,” Hadi said in a statement.
The LRA is also known as Act 164.
The Marang MP said the committee should comprise both Muslims and non-Muslims members.
It should also included representatives from the national fatwa committee, the Shariah Judiciary Department, Shariah and civil law practitioners, and NGOs.
Last month, PAS information chief Nasrudin Hassan claimed that LRA amendments will remove a Muslim child’s faith, and accused the federal government of only considering the interests of religious minorities instead of mainstream Muslims.
In November last year, PAS secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan warned that Muslims may seek to derail the LRA amendment if non-Muslims continue to oppose its Hadi’s private member’s Bill to upgrade Shariah courts.
Hadi is also currently seeking to allow Shariah courts mete out harsher punishments through a private motion. His Bill is listed as the 16th motion in the Parliamentary Order Paper today.
Putrajaya is expected to table the LRA Bill for a second reading in the Dewan Rakyat this sitting with the highlight being the inclusion of a new Section 88A that explicitly states that “both parties” in a civil marriage must agree for the conversion of a minor into Islam.
Specifically addressing the “Religion of a Child” in civil marriages where one spouse has converted to Islam, the amendment also said that the child will remain in the religion of the parents at the time of marriage until the child is 18 years old, when he may choose his own religion.
Custodial tussles in cases of unilateral child conversions have been a growing concern over the years and provide a high-profile glimpse of the concerns of Malaysia’s religious minorities over the perceived dominance of Islam in the country.
It also highlights the complications of Malaysia’s dual legal systems where Muslims are bound by both civil and Shariah laws, but where only civil court rulings apply to non-Muslims.
– Malay Mail