Perlis fatwa panel rules on child custody

Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin.
Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA • The fatwa committee of Perlis has issued an edict which says custody of a child should be given to the more suitable parent, regardless of religion, online news reports said yesterday.

The fatwa or Islamic edict, while possibly welcomed by the non-Muslim community, could be controversial among Muslims, as Islamic courts in Malaysia usually give custody of a child involved in parental tussles to the Muslim parent.

Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, the state's highest Islamic authority, said the committee found it unfair to determine custody of a child based solely on the parents' religion, as the child's overall welfare and interests were paramount. The edict could signal a turning point in the way custody cases were deliberated at the Syariah Courts, he said.

"The overall welfare of the child includes his or her physical, moral and emotional needs. The parent who is more able to provide these needs should get custody, whether they are Muslim or not," Mr Asri told The Star.

He said the courts needed to judge which parent was more suitable by studying their background and lifestyle, as well as taking into consideration the child's choice.

"If both parents are equally suitable to care for the child, then the child has the right to choose which parent he or she wants to live with. This is provided the child is old enough to decide," Mr Asri said.

Under the ruling, it will still be compulsory for the Muslim parent to introduce Islam to the child, whether they have custody or not.

The fatwa committee has also ruled that custody should automatically be granted to the mother if she is still breastfeeding the child.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2015, with the headline 'Perlis fatwa panel rules on child custody'. Print Edition | Subscribe