Sunday, February 28, 2016

Public interest comes first in unilateral conversion, says Penang mufti

Public interest should be the main factor when deciding on issues dealing with unilateral conversion of children by a Muslim spouse, Penang mufti Datuk Dr Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor said today. He said there were some articles in Shariah enactments that needed to be improved so such cases could be settled justly. "In my personal view, there are no provisions in the Quran and Hadith on such matters. When we cannot find solutions based on the holy book, we must go with public interest. "Islam promotes principles like justice and wisdom. Anything against that is unIslamic," he said today after a closed door meeting with leaders of various religious faiths at his office in Komtar, George Town, today. Penang bishop Sebastian Francis was the other high level religious leader at the meeting, which also included Bishop Emeritus Antony Selvanayagam, Catholic priests Fabian Dicom, Henry Rajoo and College General rector Gerard Theraviam, blogger Anil Netto, and Penang PAS's Islamic outreach bureau deputy chairman Abdul Rahman Kassim, known as the party's "bridge builder" for his role in organising interfaith programmes in recent years. Besides child custody issues involving parents of different faiths, they also discussed unilateral conversions, the threat of militant group Isis, and extremism. Wan Salim said a representative from the Shariah Court explained to the meeting that there was no overlap of the law between Shariah and civil courts in the issue of child custody battles involving Muslim and non-Muslim parents. The mufti described the meeting a historic event as it was the first time it was held between his office and Christian leaders. "It is important to have such engagements to rid the confusion and misunderstandings between our communities," he told reporters after the two-hour meeting. Wan Salim said the discussions were fruitful for the leaders of both faiths as they faced common challenges from moral decay in society. "In Malaysia, the majority of its people uphold religious and moral teachings. There is no religion that promotes terrorism or extremism. "But it happens in Islam and some other communities because there are people who are ignorant (jahil) in religion, having failed to refer to the right sources and authoritative scholars on religion, like those in Isis who use their own interpretation... that is dangerous," he said. He said Islam rejected violence and killing as well as extremist views that undermined relationships between communities of different religions. He said today's meeting affirmed such an understanding. Meanwhile, Francis said the Catholic leaders thanked the mufti for the visit and were impressed by the latter's commitment to common values like justice, peace and mercy. He said Penang had always seen a harmonious relationship among different faiths, and encouraged everyone to be "bridge builders". "We will provide leadership in religious and moral matters for our own people. There are so many things we agree upon. This is what God's will is for us." Francis pledged that such interfaith engagements would continue, adding that the church sometimes had Muslim university students visiting for dialogues and discussions. In December last year, Francis and a group of Catholic priests were given a tour of a mosque in Kepala Batas, Penang. Francis had also in the past attended events together with local PAS leaders. Early last month, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Julian Leow met Federal Territories mufti Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri, and spoke about various issues including tolerance and mutual respect among religions. The meeting was held amid heightened tensions between the two communities, following the latest controversy over an anti-Christian seminar held at Universiti Teknologi Mara two months ago. There have also been friction between the communities over the use of the word "Allah" in Malay-language Bibles, unilateral conversions of minors and custody of children. – February 29, 2016.]]>

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