BY : P. Waytha Moorthy (HINDRAF Chairman)
The introduction of the Administration of the religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 through its 1st reading on July 26, 2013 has caused uproar among the Non-Muslim Community.
The cabinet previously had halted any conversion unilaterally in 2009, therefore the sudden appearance of this bill passing through the cabinet to be tabled appears in contrary to the objective of ruling government.
In conjunction with the controversial Section 107(b) of the new draft bill, there seems to be ambiguity in the language in Section 51 (b) where it appears to encroach into the rights and domain of Non-Muslims.
Section 51 (b) states;
(b) in its civil jurisdiction, hear and determine all actions and proceedings if all parties to the actions or proceedings are Muslims and the actions or proceedings relate to–
The above provision could be used to interpret and sanction a unilateral decision in favour of a Muslim converting partners and Islamic/ government authorities as by practice and precedence in syariah matters the non-Muslim parties have no recourse for either a statutory or equitable remedy.
Section 51 (b) (iii), (xi) & (xii) could act as a tool of manipulation with regards to maintenance, custody of children as well as unilateral declaration on the religious status of disputed deceased partners in controversial conversions cases.
In reality in passing this bill, the Syariah court will abrogate the jurisdiction of the civil court in regards to ancillary reliefs for the Non-Muslims.
Further the bill appears to be in direct confrontation with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on Elimination of All Form of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) that had been ratified and conflicting with the spirit of the Federal Constitution.
Bearing the fact that 47% of the nation’s population consist of various other religious beliefs, rather than provoking, it would be appropriate for the AG’s department to engage other stakeholders such The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (MOWFCD), religious leaders, Bar Council and the Syariah legal fraternity before tabling such a controversial bill.
Any government bills tabled should not antagonize the government’s transformation plans that our Prime Minister is moving towards with an evolving community in the current generation.