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Indira: Children of divorced parents to stay with original religion

Contributed by Anonymous on Thursday, April 23 @ 09:00:26 CDT

By : V. Vasudevan
NST April 23 2009
The Cabinet has decided that if a spouse were to convert to Islam, the children will follow the faith that the parents had agreed on at the time of marriage. The Cabinet also decided that the civil courts are the right place to dissolve a marriage in the event of a spouse converting to Islam. The Cabinet also directed the Attorney-General to review and propose changes to the law to prevent any future complications to the family unit that may arise when a spouse convert to Islam.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the Cabinet made the decision at its meeting yesterday , following the controversy in Perak when K. Pathmanathan, 40 converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ridzuan Abdullah. He also converted their their children without informing her. He used the children’s birth certificate to get them converted on April 2.

Since then, Muhammad Ridzuan has been trying to take custody of two of the children - Karan Dinish, 11 and Tevi Darsiny, 12 - from their mother. He already has custody of a third child, baby, Prasana Diksa. His wife, M. Indira Ghandi has since then been seeking a solution to the problem.

“The Cabinet feels there is an implied and constructive contract between husband and wife that their children should be brought up in accordance to the common religion at the time of marriage or whatever religion they had agreed their offspring should practice,” he said.
Nazri said in the case of Indira Ghandhi, both she and her husband were Hindus at time of marriage, so it was implied that their children be brought up as Hindus.

Nazri said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Maj-Gen (R) Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom, who is in charge of Islamic affairs, has been instructed to meet with Muhammd Ridzuan to settle the case amicably.

“He will also meet with the relevant authorities (like the Perak Islamic Affairs Department) to settle this in accordance with the cabinet decision.”

Nazri said the Cabinet was of the view that conversion came with responsibility and cited two reasons - the first is to protect the innocent party from being treated unfairly and victimised and the second is to protect the new religion of the person who converted to the new faith or in this case, Islam.

Religion should not be used as a tool to allow a party to a marriage to run away from his or her responsibility as husband or wife, he said.

“I do not think any religion would want it to be used as a convenient tool to run away from responsibility," he said.

Nazri said the question of the children’s custody in Indira Ghandi’s case does not arise at this juncture as the marriage has yet to be dissolved.

“The marriage followed civil laws and the Cabinet stand by the principle that a civil marriage should be dissolved in a manner provided for by civil courts.

“Conversion to another religion is not a ground for automatic dissolution of a civil marriage.”

Nazri noted that the couple were separated at the point when Pahtmanathan converted to Islam.

“The Cabinet has agreed that the relevant date for application of Islamic laws should be on the date of conversion and it is not retrospective.

“Past acts should be resolved under the relevant civil laws. Islamic laws apply on the day of his conversion. He must resolve all his problems first and he should come clean as to his responsibilities before he converts to any other religions.

Nazri said to give effect to its decision, the Cabinet has instructed the Attorney General to look at the relevant laws which need to be amended.

“Civil marriage laws or any other laws to be amended. If it affect Islamic enactment it will be brought to the Sultan’s attention.” he said.



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