By R.Shan (Human Being)
Bearing the escalation of conversion rows (latest involving Yi Min in Penang), including 'body-snatching' cases where Islamic authorities have battled with relatives over the remains of the alive and dead when religion is disputed encouraged the cabinet to table proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 and Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984.
Initially when the Rulers’ conference was approached in June 29, 2009, it was decided by them that matter of the conversion and religion must be referred to the state religious authorities before proceeding with it.
The proposed changes would involve procedures on the dissolution of marriage, right to custody of children when coversion happens after marriage, maintenance of children and wife, and division of matrimonial assets.
Now the current reluctance by the Rulers' Conference to consent to the proposed amendments although the proposals are only reflective of a person’s rights prior to becoming a Muslim. It seems that the Rulers' Conference fail to comprehend that as rulers they are also duty bound to the second limb of Article 153 of the Federal constitution as the minority’s interests also need to be safeguarded in the current polarized state of affairs between the Muslims and the non-Muslims.
In no instance do these proposals diminish the rights of either a Muslim or their obligations but rather to ensure the minority rights are not neglected in contrary to Federal constitution on unreasonability and installation of fear through religion as we have seen at a rampant stage in Malaysia of late.
As Rulers, they have the natural duty to safeguard and protect the Islamic faith, but not in a retrospective manner prior to them embracing the Islam faith or how it is forced upon without their natural consent.
The consensus requested by way of these bills will no doubt weather the storm of the currently strained race relations in Malaysia and enhance the position of the Rulers that they are indeed concerned with the second limb of Article 153.
As for the UMNO & PAKATAN state governments, it is obvious that they are trying to do a balancing act to ensure their vote counts in their typical political manner whereas the public continues to suffer in silence. By pushing the buck to the Rulers, it does nothing but undermine the faith of the people on how ineffective they have become when the public’s interest is at stake when the constitution is crystal clear that minorities are to be protected to ensure their own freedom of practice.
This indeed would be a clear indication that the Rulers’ Conference is equally concerned to ensure justice, reasonableness and fair play is afforded in their role as the rulers for each and every Malaysian besides only serving what is politically expedient.