Thursday, March 10, 2016

Mediation can end unilateral conversion disputes, says new panel chair

A curriculum on mediation is a possible solution to bring an end to disputes arising from the unilateral conversions of children to Islam by one spouse, the new chairman of the Committee to Promote Understanding and Harmony among Religious Adherents (JKMPKA) says. Datuk Azman Amin Hassan, the former director-general of the Department of National Unity and Integration, under which the committee was formed in 2010, told The Malaysian Insider that resolving the problem of interfaith custody battles experienced by the likes of M. Indira Gandhi and S. Deepa was one of the main issues he hoped the committee would be able to address in its two-year term. Towards this end, the committee has formulated the mediation curriculum together with Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA), which they hope will offer a solution to religious issues taken to court. "This has been in the works for two years. The mediation curriculum, which was designed with UIA, is supposed to help when religious issues come up, on how parties can mediate for an amicable solution," said Azman. "We have spoken about this issue for a long time, especially when it comes to unilateral conversion of children and in cases where the family are not informed that one of their members has converted to Islam. "The child conversion issue is a little more complicated, so we want to list down the issues by importance and will come up with a plan of action and terms of reference when we meet again next month," said Azman (pic, right), who retired as director-general in 2013. He and other new members of the JKMPKA were announced last month. While the news of a mediation curriculum comes too late for restaurant manager Deepa, who after a two-year legal battle was only awarded custody of her daughter while her convert former husband was granted their son, Azman was hopeful that those equipped with this mediation certification would be able to resolve religious conflicts between parties without having to take the matter to the courts.   "What happens now when parties go to court is that the winning party will be happy but the other side will not be. "There will be no end to that and no satisfaction for all parties, so we want to promote mediation first," he said. At the conclusion of her custody dispute, Deepa expressed disappointment over the Federal Court decision and hoped that cases like hers would not recur. Indira, who is challenging the unilateral conversion of her three children to Islam by her former husband, said justice was denied her despite a civil court custody awarded in her favour. As a result, her youngest child remains with her ex-spouse. Azman said over the past years, JKMPKA has succeeded in building trust among religious leaders, who then facilitated discussions on religious issues. "The first thing we aimed to do was for capacity building among religious leaders. "We did this by organising talks, especially on the different religions, for example, to explain certain concepts of Islam to others and also vice versa." Azman said the committee organised activities, such as the Interfaith Harmony Week, with the main aim of promoting unity and religious tolerance among Malaysians of different faiths, adding that in 2013, Malaysia won third prize in the World Interfaith Harmony Week and went to Jordan to receive the award. Going forward, Azman hopes for more public involvement in their activities and wants to get the word out about their programmes in the media to achieve this. He also wants to ensure that the committee's discussions get more publicity. "I feel we should be in the news more often so the people know what we are doing and join us in our activities and programmes." Zaid Kamaruddin (pic, left), a member of the Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs, who has been with the committee since its inception, attested to Azman's claim that the committee has succeeded in building good relations among its members of different religious backgrounds. He said the relationship has now turned into friendship, adding that they were working towards getting the public on the same page in terms of building bridges among people of different faiths.   Given that this is his third term with the committee, Zaid is hoping it will be able to come up with a definitive recommendation on the conversion issue to the government. "This is my hope for the next two years as a committee member, that we can put up a good recommendation to the government on the conversion issue." – March 11, 2016.]]>

No comments:

Post a Comment