Finally an end to conversion disputes

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26 Aug – (Mytimes), Civil courts should have precedence over sharia courts in divorce and child custody cases because such marriages were solemnise under civil laws – specifically the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

We in MIC youth have always been saying this and now welcome Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s statement yesterday that civil courts will have precedence in mediating divorce and child custody cases involving spouses who have convert to Islam after marriage.

His statement is high welcome and hopefully puts an end to conversion battles that have divided our society. The amendment to the law will be table in the October session of parliament and it will finally end custody battles for underage children and divorce and marriage disputes.

The amendment will simple give civil courts the power to end conversion battles. The principle behind the proposed change is that what starts in the civil courts should end in the civil courts. The jurisdictional battle between Islamic sharia law and civil laws that had caused deep division in society will finally come to an end.

It is a win-win formula that the MIC has long been advocating and also well accepted by the people at large. We believe that this is a just move that is in line with the teachings of all religions including Islam. The change gives the civil court the precedence to mediate in divorce and child custody cases involving spouses who had converted to Islam after marriage.

I believe that the amendment to the law would finally iron out the problem of overlapping jurisdiction between the civil and Shariah courts. The decision to amend came about after MIC, MCA, Gerakan and others jointly pressed the government to resolve the issue once and for all. The principle underlining our arguments is simple – if the couple is married under civil law, then we should settle the divorce under civil law

Najib’s announcement comes after his promise in May that the Cabinet was looking for ways to resolve interfaith child custody conflicts between Muslim and non-Muslim parents. Such high profile cases like Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi and her Muslim convert ex-spouse, Muhammad Riduan Abdullah, that have been battling in the courts for years, would finally come to an end.

The case triggered backlash from the minorities and prompted calls for Putrajaya to provide a final solution which is the amendments to the law in October. The Cabinet had unanimously agreed that the amendment to the marriage law was the right thing to do.

The Cabinet decided in 2009 to bar the unilateral conversion of children, but the proposed legal amendments to enforce this were later shelved following the intervention from the Conference of Rulers hours before they could be tabled in Parliament.

The government then proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984 and the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 to ensure that issues like child support and custody would be determined by the court in which the marriage had been registered in, regardless if one spouse embraces another religion later on. -Mytimes

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