Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Two ministers join chorus against conversion Bill

Two ministers have spoken out against a proposed law which allows the unilateral conversion of children to Islam, leading opposition MPs to wonder if the Cabinet even discussed the Bill which was tabled in Parliament last Wednesday.

In a statement, Datuk Paul Low, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department said that clause 107B of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 should not be allowed.

"The provision under Clause 107B is fundamentally unjust as it denies the rights of one parent on the welfare of his or her children, and the children are also denied the protection of their right to receive guidance from both parents as to their wellbeing, " said Low.

His statement follows comments made by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz earlier today on the controversial amendment which has incurred the wrath of non-Muslims as well Barisan Nasional component parties.

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Their concern is based on the fact that non-Muslim men have in the past divorced their non-Muslim wives and converted to Islam, then forced their children to convert too. Sometimes the men converted even before divorcing.

When the controversy over these conversions emerged in 2009, Nazri gave an undertaking that the government would not allow any conversion forced upon a child by one parent. He stood by that position today and said that the proposed new law was unfair to non-Muslims.

This breaking of ranks by the ministers led several opposition MPs to wonder if there was a process of consultation in Cabinet.

PKR MP for Bukit Katil Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin wanted to know why Nazri raised his objection now and not before when the Bill was tabled.

"Was he even briefed on this as a Cabinet member?" Shamsul asked.

PAS Kuala Krai MP Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli was equally stumped.

"Coming from a Cabinet Minister, it makes me wonder, whether the Cabinet discussed the bill before it was tabled, " he said, hoping that the Cabinet would now relook the amendment.

R Sivarasa, PKR's MP for Subang, hoped that Nazri would convince other members of the Cabinet to also reject the amendment.

It is not only Pakatan Rakyat who are reacting adversely to the Bill. MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said that his party also rejected the clause.

Till now, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has maintained silence on this issue. His deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin defended the Cabinet's decision to table the Bill, saying that it was in line with a court decision. - July 3, 2013.

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