The reform in the divorce laws was a long time coming and now it is finally being in the works. Sadly, it took many broken families and children torn from parents for us to get to this stage.
Hopefully, the authorities will ensure anything impeding it will be pushed out of the way to ensure that the reforms happen as soon as possible, if only to save children the trauma.
In a country which is multi-religious, there is no way one can stop conversions and they are bound to happen – be it for love for the religion or for love of the romantic kind.
And when that happens, one cannot stop a parent from wanting the child to be with her or him, but there must be laws to stop parents from going overboard in kidnapping the child or stopping the converted parents from seeing the child.
Yet again and again, we have cases like Indira Ghandi (where baby was kidnapped) and S Deepa (custody given to father), S Shamala (custody given to Hindu mother but cautioned not to influence children) and Chang Ah Mee (child was converted illegally).
We also have cases where the mothers had to run away overseas such as Shamala for trying to make sense of the court’s rulings whereby a mother is told not to impart her values to her children.
The Malay Mail Online reported that federal minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said that Putrajaya’s planned legal reforms for divorce cases involving non-Muslims and Muslim converts will resolve the thorny issue of unilateral child conversions,
“Nazri said that the proposed reforms will essentially see the Cabinet abiding by its April 2009 decision which requires both parents’ consent before a child of civil marriage can be converted to another religion.
“He added that the Bill to amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 will ensure that all divorce cases involving couples married under civil law be heard by the civil courts, even if one of the couples converts to Islam after the marriage.
“Once you amend the Act it will lead to, and certainly be a solution for, the issue of unilateral conversion by one parent in the future
“When we do this amendment, in the future it will resolve issues like the Indira Gandhi (case),” Nazri told The Malay Mail Online.
It is pure logic that such reform takes place and in fact, it is pure common sense in the first place for any civil marriage to be annulled in the civil courts before a converted spouse moves on.
Muslims and non-Muslims – experts and laymen have been saying that again again and after witnessing how families and children are pulled to all sides just because one parent converted, making Islam look so ugly as the family-breaker.
Yet, the authorities refused to reform the divorce laws and insisted that in Malaysia, the most important thing was anyone who has converted or been converted (never mind the suckling baby is torn from the mother’s breasts), must not be allowed to be murtad. As if Islam did not have any humanity, making many Muslims fear that there will soon be a group of people who grow up with Muslim names but no love for the religion.
A recent case in point is that of Rooney Rebit who was born into a Christian family in 1975 in Sarawak but his parents converted to Islam when he was eight years old. His Muslim name was Azmi Mohamad Azam Shah. In 1999, Rebit embraced Christianity and was baptised. The court recently agreed that he be allowed to opt out of Islam.
There are many similar cases which has been decided likewise in the Syariah courts, using the allowances such as the the provision in Selangor which resides under the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003, Section 61(3)(b)(x).
Even the police contributed to the mess as they took sides and today we have quite a number of adults who are with Muslim names seeking to be murtad so that they can believe in what they want to believe.
It is heartening to note that Nazri is pushing for it, but we do hope that this can be done quickly as soon as possible, to protect everyone – from the Muslim convert parent to the non-convert parent to the children and future children.
It is also hoped that such a reform in the divorce laws will be enforced and not be mere window decorations in our constitution.