KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 — Malaysia needs to reform its family laws after the latest case involving a Hindu single mother and her three children who were unilaterally converted in Perlis, former religious affairs minister Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa said.
Free Malaysia Today reported him saying that similar issues would keep cropping up uncontrollably if the laws are not amended.
“But, ultimately, these laws must be compassionate, especially in the case of child custody when a parent converts. That is in the spirit of Islam.
“Or else, we will always hear of children being converted by their convert father without the mother’s consent. This paints a negative image of Islam, which prides itself on compassion and the love of the mother,” the Parit Buntar MP was reported saying.
He also called for a change in attitude among “those in authority”.
“If we cannot tackle this issue through the law, we should tackle it through our attitudes.
“Have we not learnt any lessons from the Indira Gandhi case? If we don’t [learn from it], this issue will never end,” he added.
Mujahid’s comments were in reference to the case of single mother Loh Siew Hong.
Loh’s 14-year-old twin daughters and 10-year-old son are currently under the care of the Perlis Welfare Department pending the outcome of her habeas corpus application set to be heard tomorrow at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.
Loh’s children were taken away from her in 2019 while she was hospitalised with injuries she claimed were inflicted by her former husband, Nagashwaran Muniandy, who has since converted to Islam and then secretly converted the couple’s children.
Loh had obtained interim custody of her children in July 2019 pending her divorce, but her court case was delayed when the country went into Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020.
Loh finally obtained full custody of her children in March 2021. She continued searching for them so she could finally take them home.
On February 16, Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin admitted in a video posted on his Facebook account that the three children were unilaterally converted to Islam in July 2020 by their father before he was imprisoned on drug charges.
He added that the Perlis Islamic Religious Department had not enquired about the mother’s whereabouts and that the children’s conversion were not registered with the National Registration Department.
Asri also claimed the children did not want to return to Loh and has maintained that the minors’ conversion to Islam is legal despite the landmark court judgment outlawing unilateral conversions.
In Loh’s case, Mujahid said that her rights over her children cannot be deprived, as it goes against a compassionate Islam.
“Sadly, we are stuck with people riding on racial and religious bigotry. Solving this issue should not be on such lines. If we don’t get out of the tangle of race and religious lines, this issue will never be solved. We will be stuck there and it will perpetuate more problems.
“One camp is riding along with a popular opinion, the other is using racial slurs and religious bigotry,” he added.