Malaysia bans forced conversion of minors to Islam

Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:47am EDT
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By Razak Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has banned the forced conversion of children to Islam to quell unease among religious minorities in the mainly Muslim nation, the country's Legal Affairs Minister said on Thursday.

The decision follows the highly publicized case of Indira Gandhi, a 34-year-old ethnic Indian Hindu woman whose estranged husband embraced Islam and then converted their children to the religion as well.

Minister Nazri Aziz said minors were to be bound by the common religion of their parents while they were married even if one parent later becomes a Muslim.

Islamic law will also apply only from the point of a person's conversion to the religion and is not retrospective, he told a press conference.

"We have to resolve this once and for all. I don't think we should be deciding on a piecemeal basis every time a conversion issue crops up," Nazri said.

"We have decided on a long-term solution because we expect more cases will occur, being a multiracial country," he added.

Islam is the official religion in Malaysia, but non-Muslims are allowed to practice their faiths.

Muslims, who make up around 65 percent of the Southeast country's 27 million population, are bound by Islamic family laws, while civil laws apply to non-Muslims.   Continued...

<p>A Malaysian Muslim girl walks through an aisle at the end of a ceremony on the first day of Moharram, which marks the start the Muslim new year, in Putrajaya January 10, 2008. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad</p>