The Kuala Lumpur And Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) has taken note of the recent unilateral conversion of Loh Siew Hong’s children and urged everyone to leave aside religious beliefs stereotypes and prioritise the needs of children in this age range. Furthermore, the mother, Loh Siew Hong, was granted custody of the three children by the High Court of Kuala Lumpur as early as last year. Therefore, the relevant authorities should not continue to limit Loh Siew Hong’s basic right to visit the children due to the spread of the pandemic or for other reasons.
Loh Siew Hong, a 35-year-old Chinese Indian mixed-race woman, divorced her husband three years ago because of domestic violence, but her children were taken away secretly by her husband, causing her to lose contact with her children. She has been searching for her three children for three years. The High Court of Kuala Lumpur granted Loh Siew Hong custody of the three children in 2021, but it was only recently that she learned that her ex-husband was serving a drug sentence and that the three children were in the Perlis religious department. Without the consent of Loh Siew Hong, the Hidayah Centre Foundation brought the children to the religious department and converted them to Islam.
KLSCAH believes that since the three children are all under the age of 18 and their biological father is still imprisoned, the children should have the consent of their biological mother Loh Siew Hong to change their religion. Although the Indira case set a precedent for many cases of conversion controversy, incidents of children being unilaterally taken away by their dads, such as Loh Siew Hong’s children, continue to occur. Therefore, KLSCAH urges the government to amend the law as soon as possible in the upcoming Parliament, so that the conversion of underage children requires the consent of both parents before proceeding.
Furthermore, the current Perlis Mufti, Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, announced the implementation of the FATWA at the Perlis Fatwa Committee in 2015, stating that custody of underage children should not be determined based on the religion of the parents, but rather on which party can provide children with a perfect growth environment and psychological development as the primary consideration. However, it is doubtful and concerning when compared to the current situation in which it was said that Loh Siew Hong’s children wish to maintain their Muslim identity and Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has promised to do so. KLSCAH believes that after confirming that Loh Siew Hong is capable of raising three children, the Perlis Social Welfare Department should promptly return the children to Loh Siew Hong to guarantee the children’s physical and mental development.
17th February 2022