MCCBCHST: Our family lives are no longer secure
The recent sidestep decision of the Federal Court in Shamala’s case prompted the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism to express its despair over the inaction by the authorities in addressing these serious issues. The press statement issued by its current President it reproduced below from the MCCBCHST website Harmony Malaysia.
Tan Cheow Hong. Indira Gandhi. Nedunchelian. Shamala. Genga Devi.
These 5 names should be seared in all our memories as symbols of the deep sense of insecurity Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Taoist now feel in Malaysia.
All these 5 people have had their family lives totally disrupted when their children were converted to Islam without their knowledge or consent by a disgruntled spouse.
All 5 have had to battle the government servants who act as the Islamic religious authorities in Malaysia and with lawyers from the Attorney General’s Chambers who argue that they must go to the Syariah court (despite being non Muslim) in order to exercise their constitutional rights to raise their children in their own religion.
All 5 have had to battle with Judges within the civil court system who constantly abdicate their constitutional oath to protect and preserve the Federal Constitution, and their role in a democracy such as ours to protect the rights of minorities.
The recent decision of the Federal Court is just another example of this.
The MCCBCHST has since 2004 made numerous calls to numerous governments. We have presented memoranda, made press statements and written letters to the editor.
Together with other members of civil society, we have had candle light vigils and held roadshows. The police stopped the roadshows because of the violent actions of extremists from the other side who sought to prevent us from speaking.
We have had meetings with Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentarians, State Governments (from both sides of the political divide), politicians and civil servants.
The Cabinet boldly announced its decision on 21 April 2009 that the religion of a child under 18 years would continue to be the religion of that child at the time of his/her birth, and that children cannot be converted without the joint consent of both parents. But sadly to this date we have not seen the implementation of that decision.
We have read of calls by many Islamic scholars that children cannot be converted to Islam. The Director General of IKIM said in the Star of 12 June 2009 that “…. the call to Islam is a willing and conscious submission, hence it cannot be forced upon anybody including the conversion of a child or minor to Islam”. Despite this, we are inundated with cases of children – some as young as a 11 month old baby still being breastfed by her mother, and 3 to 6 years old children – being converted by one parent and then taken away from the other parent.
The decision of the judges of the Federal Court led by Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi to dismiss Shamala’s case on a mere technicality rather than determine the five constitutional questions she had raised is of much concern. If not the Federal Court who else should the non converting spouse turn to in order to protect and uphold their basic rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
The above events have led to most Malaysian losing their faith in government, the civil service and the Judiciary.
We will turn to Prayer and seek recourse through all lawful means to right these wrongs so glaringly being committed with impunity.
The MCCBCHST urges all its component members, and all Malaysians, to include in their prayers each week a prayer that
- our lawmakers, civil servants and judges to recall and administer their duties in accordance with their oaths of office to defend the Constitution
- that our fellow Malaysians – Tan Cheow Hong, Indira Gandhi, Nedunchelian, Shamala and Genga Devi – get to bring up their children and to educate their children in their own respective religions, and exercise their freedom of religion
Rev Dr Thomas Philips