By JULIA ZAPPEI,Associated Press Writer AP - Saturday, April 25
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A Malaysian Hindu woman who is fighting her husband's conversion of their three youngsters to Islam has regained custody of the children _ a day after the government decided it would no longer allow disputed conversions of minors, a lawyer said Saturday.
A high court in northern Perak state granted Indira Ghandhi custody of her children, aged between 1 and 12, on Friday, her lawyer M. Kulasegaran said.
Ghandhi's estranged husband, a recent Muslim convert, converted them to Islam and then got an Islamic court to give him custody earlier this month.
The case caused a renewed outcry among Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and other minorities, who complain their religious rights are under threat as courts rule in favor of Muslims, who make up 60 percent of the population.
This led new Prime Minister Najib Razak's administration Thursday to announce it would bar the conversion of children without both parents' consent. Amendments are expected to be made to the law, but no details were made available.
Besides custody, Ghandhi also obtained an order to bar her husband, K. Pathmanathan, from entering her home and taking the children, Kulasegaran said. He said the court would hear both sides' arguments over permanent custody on May 12.
Ghandhi, a 34-year-old ethnic Indian kindergarten teacher, also plans to seek a court declaration to invalidate the children's conversion.
"From what the mother has told me, she wants the children to be Hindus until they are 18," Kulasegaran, who is also an opposition lawmaker, said. "The Cabinet decision is just a directive. ... But I'm sure it will help."
In the past, non-Muslim parents have often failed to prevent their estranged spouses from converting their children to Islam. In the most high-profile case in 2007, a Hindu woman failed to persuade the civil court to bar her husband, who had embraced Islam, from converting their sons.
Many of these cases also end up in Islamic courts, which typically rule in favor of Muslims.
Malaysia has a two tier court system for family and civil matters _ secular courts for non-Muslims and Islamic courts for Muslims. But it is unclear which court has jurisdiction in interfaith disputes, and when Islamic courts get the last word, non-Muslims feel they cannot get a fair hearing.
Goverment should play their roles in maintaining Islam as our official religion in Malaysia. In this case application of Islamic rule would be a better option for our country
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