Is Unilateral Conversion the Best Solution?

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Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil

Abstract

The issue of unilateral conversion of minors has once again generated widespread uproar in Malaysia when the Federal Court unanimously decided, in the case of Indira Ghandi on 29 January 2018, that both the parents’ consent was required in determining the faith of minors. In Malaysia, Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution provides that "For the purposes of Clause (3) the religion of a person under the age of eighteen years shall be decided by his parent or guardian." The Federal Court held, in this case, that the word 'parent' must be understood in the plural form, denoting both 'parents’, based on Schedule Eleven of the Federal Constitution and sections 5 and 11 of the Guardianship Act 1961. This decision marked a departure from the previous Federal Court judgement in Subashini (2007) in which ‘parent’ was defined as one of the parents. The Federal Court in the Indira Ghandi case also rejected the argument put forth by some parties that the decision in the case of Susie Teoh (1990), who voluntarily converted to Islam at the age of 16, had a bearing on the interpretation of the word ‘parent’ as singular or plural.

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