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High Court rules single mum can challenge ex-husband over children's conversion to Islam

The Kuala Lumpur High Court says Loh Siew Hong has crossed the threshold to have the merit of her complaint heard.

Bernama
3 minute read
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The Kuala Lumpur court complex which houses the High Court.
The Kuala Lumpur court complex which houses the High Court.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has allowed the application for a judicial review by single mother Loh Siew Hong, to challenge her ex-husband’s act of registering their three children as Muslim converts without her consent.

Judge Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, in allowing the application, said Loh had crossed the threshold to have the merit of her complaint heard.

"This application is not frivolous, but an arguable case. The applicant was also not out of time when she filed the judicial review as an abundance of caution.

"First of all, the application was not objected to by the attorney-general. Based on the said reasons, leave is granted with no order to cost," he said in online proceedings today.

The three children were converted to Islam by Loh’s Muslim-convert ex-husband, M Nagahswaran, without her consent on July 7, 2020.
 
For lawsuits filed through judicial review applications, leave or permission must be obtained from the court before the lawsuit can be heard.

The application was filed on March 25, with the Perlis State Registrar of Converts, Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIPs), Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin and the Perlis state government named as the first to the fourth respondents.

The four respondents, on May 17, objected to the application on the grounds that Loh should have filed the application within 90 days of her children’s conversion to Islam on July 7, 2020.

Lawyers A Srimurugan and Mohamed Hanif Khatri Abdulla appeared for Loh and MAIPs respectively, while senior federal counsel Ainun Wardah Shahidan represented the Perlis State Registrar of Converts, Asri and the state government.

Loh 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 the children as converts without her consent.
 
She is also seeking a declaration that her three children do not have the legal capacity to convert to Islam without her consent.

She also wants 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, as well as other cards on their conversion to Islam that have been issued by other parties, and to prevent any party from issuing such cards.

Loh is also applying for a mandamus order to compel the Perlis State Registrar of Converts to delete or cancel the names of her three children or their Muslim names in the Perlis state register of converts, and a prohibition order to prevent Asri, through officers, employees or the Perlis State Mufti Department, from issuing statements that could mean that her children are converts or Muslims.

She is also seeking a declaration that Section 117 (b) of the Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006, which empowers the Registrar of Converts of Perlis to register a child as a convert only with the consent of the mother or father, even if both of them are still alive, is unconstitutional and invalid.

The three children, who were then under the care of the Social Welfare Department, were released to Loh on Feb 21 after the High Court allowed her habeas corpus application.