I welcome the decision made by the Cabinet that civil courts will be involved in disputes regarding marriage in the event where one of spouse convert to Islam.
I have said it in my MCA Party Election manifesto that MCA’s stand is that the law must be reformed to ensure that when an individual embraces Islam, the convert’s spouse (or ex-spouse), children and other family members’ rights and entitlements under civil laws remain unchanged. Regardless of such conversion, all issues arising out of the marriage must be settled according to civil law and not state Islamic law enactments, since the marriage was solemnized or registered under civil law. Furthermore, legislation must be enacted to specify that only the civil courts have jurisdiction to hear any matter regarding the divorce.
The Cabinet also made another important milestone decision recently that in the event of one spouse converting to Islam, the children will follow the religion of the parents during the time of their marriage. The children can then decide on their own religion at the age of 18. Before this recent Cabinet decision, the children are invariably converted to Islam if one of the spouse embraces Islam.
Often in the past, when one of the spouse convert to Islam, the other spouse’s children will be in a dilemma as most of the time, they will be dragged into converting into Islam without their consent and knowledge. Therefore, the decision by the Cabinet should be welcomed by all Malaysians. I am sure it will also prevent more court cases and issues involving one of the spouse seeking legal redress about their children’s religious status.
While it is any person’s right to profess the religion of his/her choice, it is not right to use religion as a tool to escape from responsibilities. Here, I would like to quote what Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Syed Nazri has said, “Religion should not be used as a tool to escape responsibilities and conversion is not grounds for automatic dissolution of a marriage”.
Hence, it is hoped that with the decision of the Cabinet, there will be less dispute regarding the children’s religion when one of the spouses convert to Islam and divorce should follow the civil law. It is indeed a laudable act by the government.