Catholic Lawyers Penang: Conversion Of Spouse To Islam After Marriage

The Catholic Lawyers of the Diocese of Penang wish to express our grave concern over the recent increase in cases where non-Muslims have been required to seek recourse in the Syariah Courts when their spouses convert and become Muslims after marriage.

We are of the view that this is unconstitutional.

Whether or not the Syariah Court will be fair and just to a non-Muslim is NOT the issue.

The crux of the matter is that a non-Muslim cannot be subjected to Syariah laws and the Syariah Court has no jurisdiction over a non-Muslim.

Furthermore, it is also our view that all Judges presiding in Civil Courts must steadfastly uphold the Federal Constitution and protect the constitutional rights of all citizens without fear or favour. It is imperative that they do so even if it is inconsistent with their own personal religious, cultural or political beliefs, as they have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution.

Should a Judge finds himself/ herself unable to make decisions based strictly on the tenets of the Constitution in a particular case before him/ her, because of his/ her own personal beliefs or bias, then the Judge should RECUSE himself/ herself from the case.

For instance, a Judge who professes the Catholic faith, should not dismiss a Petition for Divorce simply because he/ she subscribes to the Catholic belief that “what God has put together, let no Man put asunder.” ie. that once a marriage has been solemnized before God, no divorce should be allowed.

We support the call of Raja Nazrin Shah that “all Malaysians must defend and promote the integrity of the Federal Constitution”.

We urge our Government and our Judiciary to ensure that the constitutional rights of every citizen under the Federal Constitution be upheld, protected and guaranteed at all times, irrespective of our differing views, beliefs, customs and ideologies.

4th April 2007

Bernard Bhar
Chairman, Catholic Lawyers of the Diocese of Penang
1st Floor, No. 290, Jalan Macalister
10450 Penang
Tel: 04-2273405  Fax: 04-2283870

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