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Malaysia withdraw bill allowing unilateral conversion of child

Press Trust of India  |  Kuala Lumpur 

Malaysia has withdrawn a controversial bill which allows one parent to give consent for the religious conversion of a child following an outcry that it discriminated against non-Muslim minorities in the country.

"The Cabinet has decided to withdraw the child conversion bill until the approval of all stakeholders is received," Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said here.

Muhyiddin said the Cabinet made the decision to withdraw the Administration of the Religion of Islam Bill during its meeting yesterday following concerns from various quarters including from within the ruling coalition of Barisan Nasional party.

All consequential amendments from the Bill would also be withdrawn, he said in a statement.

The Bill, which was tabled in Parliament recently, allows a person below the age of 18 to convert to Islam if one parent or guardian consents to the conversion.

Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president G Palanivel welcomed the withdrawal of the Bill saying it was a fair move, taking into consideration everyone's sensitivities.

The Bill was tabled for the first reading in Parliament on June 26.

Malaysia's Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had said yesterday that the proposed legislation must not be rushed and should be given time for in-depth debate.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Paul Low Seng Kuan had called for the bill to be withdrawn while Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz said the bill was unfair to non-Muslims.

The move comes after two minor ethnic Indian Hindu children in Malaysia had been converted to Islam without their mother's consent, triggering protests from the various groups.

Multi-ethnic Malaysia has a 60 per cent majority Malay population, who are all Muslims.

The country's 27 million people also includes 25 per cent ethnic Chinese who are Buddhists or Christians and Eight per cent ethnic Indians who are mostly Hindus.

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First Published: Sat, July 06 2013. 14:25 IST