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Friday February 6, 2015
07:43 PM GMT+8

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FEBRUARY 6 — The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) welcomes the Negri Sembilan state government’s proposal to introduce and enforce new regulations ensuring that those who wish to convert to Islam dissolve their marriage prior to conversion, and make a statutory declaration on their conversion to Islam.

We view this new procedure as a positive step forward in addressing problems resulting from the secret conversion of an individual to Islam and the ensuing pain and trauma of family members, in particular children. These include incidents of “body-snatching” by the religious authorities upon the death of an alleged Muslim convert, as well as unresolved issues of ancillary relief over maintenance and child custody. Such complications have resulted in unnecessary hardships and drawn-out court battles that have put the lives of many on hold.

These regulations better reflect the Quranic principles of justice and fairness. Islam enjoins upon Muslims to treat Muslims and non-Muslims justly and fairly, and avoid shirking one’s responsibilities, even in conditions of enmity:

* ”Truly God commands you to give back trusts to those to whom they are due, and when you judge between people, to judge with justice....” (Surah An-Nisa:58)

* “... And let not the hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety....” (Surah Al-Ma’idah:8)

In a hadith reported in Abu Dawud, the Prophet Muhammad said: “Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim, curtails their rights, burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.”

We applaud this move and urge other states and the Federal Government to adopt the enlightened regulations introduced by the Negri Sembilan state government. We also hope that the new set of regulations will include a procedure to ensure that any conversion of a minor must include the informed consent of both parents in accordance with section 5 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961, which states that parents have equal guardianship rights.

* The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) is made up of Sisters in Islam (SIS, Women’s Centre for Change Penang (WCC), Perak Women for Women Society (PWW), Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO, Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER), Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO), and Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS).

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisations and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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