Court rejects single mom Loh’s bid to quash children’s unilateral conversion

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here rejected a single mother, Loh Siew Hong’s bid to challenge the unilateral conversion to Islam of her three children without her consent by her ex-husband.

Judge Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh made the decision after ruling that there was no evidence the three children have stopped professing the religion of Islam when they are under the care of their mother.

The judge said Loh, as the applicant did not deny that her children continued professing the religion of Islam in performing the daily Subuh prayers when they are in her custody.

“So, even if the certificates of conversion are not conclusive proof, in view of its unilateral nature, the force of the evidence would suggest that the three children continued professing the religion of Islam,” he said.

The judge further said that there was no evidence that the three children have reverted to the Hindu religion.

On the conversion issue, Wan Ahmad Farid found no dispute that the certificates of conversion were issued for the children.

He said the certificates were issued after the first respondent, the Perlis State Registrar of Converts, was satisfied that the legal requirements under Section 107(1) of the Perlis 2006 Enactment were adhered to when the children had professed the Syahadah proclamation willingly.

“The certificates of conversion issued by the first respondent in the case were conclusive proof of the facts stated in the certificate,” he added.

The judge said that an affidavit by Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council’s (MAIPs) chief executive officer Mohd Nazim Mohd Noor stated that the children showed intent via their actions to continue to be in Islam even when they were under the custody of Loh last year.

Wan Ahmad Farid said the affidavit also implied that the children on Feb 22 last year were still practising Islam, performing the dawn prayer, and one of them even wanted to be a syarie lawyer.

The judge also cited an aspect in another unilateral conversion case, the M. Indira Gandhi case, which concerned the children’s welfare.

“Having regard to all the circumstances of the case, there is no evidence before me that the three children are not happy staying with the applicant. Therefore, the welfare of the children, within the meaning of Indira Ghandi, dictates that the status quo should remain.

“For the aforesaid reasons, this application for judicial review is dismissed,” the judge said, adding that the court made no order as to costs because the case was a matter of public interest.

On Aug 1, 2022, Loh, 36, obtained leave from the High Court to initiate a judicial review application.

She had filed the application on March 25, last year and named the Perlis State Registrar of Converts, Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council, Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin and the Perlis state government as the first to the fourth respondent.

The single mother is seeking a declaration that her three children are Hindus and that her ex-husband, M. Nagahswaran, did not have the legal capacity to allow the Perlis State Registrar of Converts to register their children as converts without her consent.

The woman is also seeking a declaration that her three children, as children, do not have the legal capacity to convert to Islam without her consent.

She also sought a certiorari order to revoke the Declaration of Conversion to Islam, dated July 7, 2020, issued by the Registrar of Converts of Perlis in the name of her three children, and also other cards on their conversion to Islam that have been issued by other parties, and also prevent any party from issuing such a card.

The three children, a pair of 15-year-old twin girls and an 11-year-old boy who were placed under the care of the Social Welfare Department, were released to Loh on Feb 21, 2022, after the High Court allowed her habeas corpus application. –Bernama