Malaysia's AGC sets up unit to address syariah law issues

Special division to tackle such matters at federal and international levels

Malaysia's Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has formed a special department called the Syariah and Harmonisation of Law division to address issues pertaining to Islam and syariah law that arise at federal and international levels.

This comes days after the Federal Court nullified the unilateral conversion of Ms M. Indira Gandhi's three children to Islam in 2009 by her Muslim-convert former husband, putting an end to the eight-year legal battle that began in 2009.

In a statement yesterday, the AGC said: "Under Clause (2) of Article 145 of the Federal Constitution, the Attorney-General has the responsibility to advise the King, the Cabinet or any minister on any matter of law.

"To address issues relating to the Islamic religion and syariah law on federal and international levels that are being referred to the Attorney-General's Chambers, the department has taken the initiative to establish a special division called the Syariah and Harmonisation of Law division."

It added that the establishment of the division is seen as "important" as it would be a focal point on syariah issues referred to it. "Among them pertaining to legal advice, drafting and coordination of syariah law, ratifying an international convention which has an impact on syariah, and the harmonisation between civil law and syariah law to overcome conflicts of jurisdiction between both courts," the statement said.

The AGC also said that its wish in setting up the division is to ensure that syariah issues would be addressed effectively and in line with current needs.

In the landmark ruling on Monday, the Federal Court said civil courts have the exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases like the Hindu mother's challenge against her fugitive former husband Mohd Riduan Abdullah's unilateral conversion of their three children - Tevi Darsiny, 20; Karan Dinish, 18; and Prasana Diksa, eight. It added that a child from a civil marriage can be converted to Islam only with the consent of both parents.

Following the apex court's judgment, Malaysia's police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the Royal Malaysia Police would abide by the court order and would track down fugitive Riduan and youngest daughter Prasana, whom he abducted in 2009.

This was met with opposition from the Malaysian Association of Muslim Scholars (PUM), which warned that religious violence may erupt in the country if police continue hunting for the two.

In a statement, its president Abdul Halim Abd Kadir said: "We are concerned that if it is carried out, there is a possibility of conflict between religious adherents in this country that may spark violence in society." He added that the children converted to Islam by Mr Riduan must not be allowed to revert to Hinduism.

In response to the statement, an interfaith group has urged PUM to back off, saying "it is not right" for the Islamist association to urge the police to stop looking for Mr Riduan.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2018, with the headline Malaysia's AGC sets up unit to address syariah law issues. Subscribe