Nazri’s statement that new bill on unilateral conversion of minors to Islam unfair welcome
The statement by Minister for Tourism, Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz, that the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 on unilateral conversion of minors to Islam is unfair is welcome, especially as the 1993 Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act provided for both parental consent when the bill was debated in Dewan Rakyat in May 1993.
What was passed by Parliament in May 1993 on Section 95 in “Part IX – Conversion to Islam” states (English and Bahasa Malaysia):
“ 95. For the purpose of this Part, a person who is not a Muslim may convert to Islam if he is of sound mind and –
(a) has attained the age of eighteen years; or
(b) if he has not attained the age of eighteen years, his parent or guardian consents to his conversion.”
“95. Bagi maksud Bahagian ini, seseorang yang tidak beragama Islam boleh masuk Islam jika ia sempurna akal dan –
(a) Mencapai umur lapan belas tahun; atau
(b) Jika ia belum mencapai lapan belas tahun, ibu bapa atau penjaga mengizinkan kemasukannya.”
However, when it was gazetted, there was a minor but far-reaching variation in its Bahasa Malaysia version for Section 95(b) permitting unilateral conversion of minors to Islam when Parliament had always intended dual parental consent, as the gazetted Bahasa Malaysia version reads:
“(b) jika dia belum mencapai umur lapan belas tahun, ibu atau bapa atau penjaganya mengizinkan kemasukannya.”
There should be a full inquiry as to how such a minor but far-reaching discrepancy could occur between the passage of the bill by Parliament and the gazetting of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993.
Be that as it may, the primary considerations for all concerned in considering sensitive legislative proposals like the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 are to ensure they uphold the entrenched constitutional freedoms and human rights as well as to promote national harmony, family integrity and the principles of justice and fair play.