PETALING JAYA, June 19 — The Cabinet is awaiting the advice of the Attorney-General and other agencies before it decides how to address the contentious issue of the unilateral conversion of minors to Islam, Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.
Khairy pointed out the relevant article in the Federal Constitution specifically stated “parent” in the singular sense, and led to the current issue when translated to Malay.
"For the time being there are various different views, we've got to take it all on board and see what the best solution is," he told reporters after launching the Securities Commission's InvestSmart campaign at the Taylor's University.
Yesterday, Minister Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom claimed that the Federal Constitution permits unilateral conversions, pointing to the use of the word “parent” instead of “parents”, and threw the matter into further confusion.
The minister's stance was a departure from the 2009 Cabinet decision prohibiting the conversion of minors to Islam on a single parent's consent.
Jamil Khir also said yesterday that Putrajaya has no plans to enact new laws or amend existing ones to prevent unilateral child conversions.
Today, Khairy, who is the youth and sports minister, said the Cabinet's stance has always been to respect the original religion of the parents at the point of marriage.
"But obviously that has run into some issues because of interpretation of the Constitution, so that's what we need to clear up.
"But on the longer term issue on the law itself, it has to be cleared up quite soon. Otherwise there is a gray areas of what 'parent' means," he said.
Jamil Khir's announcement yesterday has complicated what was thought to be the government's previously-clear position on unilateral child conversions and has reintroduced the controversial interpretation of the constitution that has created the problem.
Putrajaya has advised for the matter to be decided by the Federal Court, saying it was the proper venue to resolve the dispute.