Monday, August 11, 2008

Suhakam urges PM to amend civil laws to resolve conflicts

Suhakam urges PM to amend civil laws to resolve conflicts
By Husna Yusop
KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 10, 2008): Former Suhakam commissioner Dr Mehrun Siraj has urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to amend the civil laws to resolve the conflicts between a Muslim convert and a non-converting spouse.

She said the lawyers had previously proposed that a section of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 be amended, but to date, nothing has been done about it.

"I want to throw a challenge to the Prime Minister. Amend the law to show you are sincere about resolving the issue. And don’t dolak dalik (be wishy washy) and pretend there are all kinds of reasons you can’t do it.

"If you really want to resolve the issue, amend the constitution," she said after the abrupt end of the Bar Council’s forum titled "Conversion to Islam: Article 121(1a) of the Federal Constitution: Subashini and Shamala Revisited" on Saturday.

The International Islamic University Malaysia adjunct professor, who attended the forum as she believed in open discussions, said the current law confines it only to non-Muslims, unless a divorce is applied for on the grounds of conversion to Islam by the party who does not convert.

"We can amend that section to say even the party who converts should be allowed to apply for divorce. That way, he or she can resolve matters with his or her non-Muslim family because when the (civil) court grants a divorce to the non-Muslim spouse, the court can also make orders for custody, maintenance, division of property and so on.

"As it is now, you can do this under the civil law, provided the non-Muslim spouse applied. But if you amend it to let the Muslim spouse to also apply, maybe he or she can then resolve issues with a non-Muslim spouse before entering into another marriage. That is what he or she should do.

"Islam does not condone the behaviour of abandoning your family. And certainly we, as Muslims, do not want anybody to make use of Islam to get out of their obligations. That would be wrong," she said.

Mehrun said when a divorce case between a Muslim convert and a non-converting spouse is brought to the syariah court, the non-Muslim would feel his or her rights were affected.
She said the issue is not about Islam as a religion but the laws which could be amended for the benefit of everyone.

"From the perspective of Islam, if we explain the right things to the non-Muslims, they would not be afraid or worried and will understand Islam better. But if we act harshly and rudely, like some of those who came to stop the forum, people will think this is what Islam is," she said.

Earlier, one of the demonstrators who claimed he represented Umno had told her off for being in the forum, saying she was conspiring with the organiser.

To this, she had said: "You represent Umno, I represent the Muslims. Muslims must act based on the Qur'an and Sunnah (sayings of the Prophet). We must behave well. Muslims must not be rude. I’m ashamed of your behaviour. Islam does not condone this."

She told reporters the protestors had given Islam and Muslims a bad name and she felt very strongly about it as they were insulting her intelligence.

"He said if I sit down means I am supporting this. (The fact is) If you sit down it means you are listening and you can contribute and explain things to people. It does not necessarily mean you agree with any views that are posed on Islam," she added.

Mehrun also suggested that a section of the Selangor Administration of Muslim Law Enactment, which provides that the syariah court should not make any decisions that affect the rights of non-Muslims, to be applied to all states.

She said under the state enactment, the syariah court can reject a case if the conflict is between a Muslim and a non-Muslim spouse. Therefore, the couple should resolve any outstanding issues first before coming to the syariah court.


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