An ethnic Chinese Malaysian has gone to court to fight the secret conversion of his 15-month-old daughter by his estranged Muslim convert wife, his lawyer said Thursday.
Carpenter Hoo Ying Soon, 28, is also challenging the temporary custody granted to his wife by a sharia court in this Muslim-majority nation.
Lawyer Tang Jay Son told AFP Hoo only learned of his wife and child’s secret conversion two days ago through a sharia court notice, which said the woman had become a Muslim on January 28 and his infant daughter on February 3.
“They also served him an interim court order… that grants the wife a temporary custody over the child and the reason for that is because the child is already a Muslim,” Tang said.
“But we have to bear in mind that the child was converted to Islam without Hoo’s knowledge and consent as a father.”
The couple — originally both Buddhists who married in 2007 and live in central Negri Sembilan state — separated in September last year, the lawyer said.
He said the parents took turns to look after their daughter, who has now been given the Muslim name Nurul Syuhada Chew Abdullah.
Hoo is now seeking custody of his daughter in the civil courts while his wife applies for a divorce through the sharia court.
The Islamic sharia courts operate in parallel to civil courts here but apply specifically to Muslims.
Tang criticised the Islamic authorities for allowing the baby’s conversion without first determining the child’s custody or the status of the couple’s marriage.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has said his government is working on legislation to prevent religious conflicts among families by requiring converts to Islam to inform their relatives of their change in religion.
The proposed new rules are seen as an olive branch to Malaysia’s minority ethnic Chinese and Indians, who are uneasy over rising “Islamisation” and have turned away from the government, which is dominated by Muslim Malays.