PETALING JAYA: The Perlis state assembly acted contrary to the Federal Constitution when it amended its enactment to make it allowable for just one parent to convert a child to Islam, said G25, the group of eminent Malays.
“The amendments are contrary to the Constitution which provides that words in the singular include the plural and that words referring to the plural include the singular.
“The word ‘parent’ in this case includes both mother and father,” said Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, the spokesman for G25, yesterday.
On Thursday, the Perlis legislative assembly passed amendments to the Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006.
Under Section 117, the phrase in Malay, “father and mother or guardian” was amended to “father or mother or guardian” as those who can consent to the conversion of children under age 18 to Islam.
However, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman has given an assurance that the Constitution rules supreme and was above state law, even in cases involving the unilateral conversion of a child.
The move by Perlis has sparked outrage among several rights and political groups, including MCA and MIC, which said the amendments went against the Constitution.
Noor Farida said the state assembly was also in contravention of the Federal Government which had tabled a Bill, amending the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act, in Parliament for first reading last month, aimed at resolving the thorny issue of unilateral conversion of a child.
“Those who are affected can apply to the civil courts for a judicial review of the Perlis Islamic law enactment and the court can strike out the amendments if they are ultra vires the Constitution,” she said.
In Johor Baru, Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Samad said the Perlis government should address and resolve the issue surrounding its move to amend the enactment.
He said Azalina has pointed out that as far as the Government was concerned, the Constitution overrides state law.
“So, I think there are some issues to be resolved,” he said after handing out school aid to some 50 underprivileged children yesterday. The state government also has to sort out matters with the Federal Government, he added.
Agreeing with Shahrir, Johor Syarie chief judge Datuk Amir Danuri said he hoped that the issue could be quickly resolved to avoid causing more confusion among the people.
He said he was rather puzzled over how the issue even surfaced, as such matters were seldom debated during meetings between the syariah and civil courts.
“In Johor, the consent of both parents is needed. Both parents, along with the child, must be present at the state Religious Islamic Department to allow him or her to embrace Islam,” he said.
Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the state government would neither interfere nor comment on the issue, adding that it would “leave it to the Federal Government to settle”.
In Ipoh, Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria declined to comment, saying that he was “not feeling well”.