Thursday, May 01, 2008

Zahid suggests family be told after conversion to Islam


Non-Muslims who are converting to Islam may only have to inform their family after their conversion and not before, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said although he respected the decision of the 18th Syarak (Islamic)/Civil Law Coordination Conference on Monday, the government was still studying the issue before making a decision.
The conference participants unanimously agreed that a non-Muslim does not need to inform the family first of his/her wish to convert to Islam.

"The proposal (by the prime minister that a non-Muslim must inform his/her family before converting to Islam) was acceptable and not rejected by the conference. But the announcement on conversion requires a suitable formula," he explained after presenting certificates to trainees of the Baitulmal Skills Training Institute at the International Youth Centre in Cheras, here yesterday.

Zahid said this was important to avoid suspicions among non-Muslims, and therefore required careful study so that the conversion would not affect the convert's relations with his or her family.

Top Islamic authorities, including legal and spiritual advisers, were also against Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi's "inform the family" proposal, Malaysian Islamic Development Department's director-general Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz said in a statement received yesterday.

The department's approval is needed to implement any rule relating to Islam. But the government can still get Parliament to pass a law which would override the department's objections.

Wan Mohamad said it was up to converts to decide whether to inform family members.
He said it should be "left to the discretion of the person who wishes to embrace Islam to determine how and when it is appropriate to inform family members. ... The existing laws for conversion to Islam and related matters are sufficient."

The failure by many converts to inform their families has led to disputes relating to funerals. In several instances, Islamic officials seized bodies for Muslim funerals, while non-Muslim family members disputed that the deceased had ever converted.

Islam is Malaysia's official religion. Non-Muslims are free to practise their religions but often lose out in interfaith disputes involving Islam. Malays are Muslim by law, and it is difficult for them to leave Islam. — Bernama, AP