KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA needs to enact a law to ban forced conversions, a controversial issue in this mainly Muslim country, rather than just relying on rulings from ministers, according to lawyers for a women fighting custody.
An ethnic Indian Malaysian woman, Indira Gandhi, whose estranged husband embraced Islam and converted their children to the religion, is fighting to get them back. Malaysia's law ministry last week said that it had banned forced conversions, saying the religion of the parents when they married applied to children, but Gandhi's husband has said that civil laws do not apply as the conversions were approved by a sharia court. 'If they (Muslims) do not submit themselves to the civil court, where is the remedy for the non-Muslim? where is the equality in law?,' Ms Gandhi's lawyer, A. Sivanesan, told a press conference.
Islam is the official religion in Malaysia, but non-Muslims are allowed to practice their faiths. Muslims, who make up around 65 per cent of the Southeast country's 27 million population, are bound by Islamic family laws, while civil laws apply to non-Muslims. There has been growing unease among Malaysia's mainly Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities who are mostly Buddhists, Christians and Hindus over numerous complaints of discrimination and unfair treatment by the authorities when seeking legal redress following cases of divorce and religious conversions. The disquiet built up during the case of Lina Joy, a Malay Muslim who converted to Christianity at the age of 26 but was forced to endure a long legal battle to have her conversion legally recognised by the Malaysian courts. Reuters