The mental capacity of the child – newspaper

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Converting to another belief is one of the most momentous decisions a person can make in their life. It must therefore take place with a certain degree of maturity and an appreciation of the long-term effects on relationships with the closest family, reputation in the community, inheritance law, etc. Youth is synonymous with impulsiveness and immaturity. However, the Lahore Supreme Court dismissed an application for the reintegration of an underage girl who had converted from Christianity to Islam, but has ruled that a child’s mental capacity is vital to their conversion. The case was brought by the 17-year-old’s father, a rickshaw driver, who claimed his daughter had been kidnapped and married to her kidnapper after the forced conversion. As to whether the conversion was enforced, the court ruled that it was unable to conduct the evidence-based investigation necessary to resolve this issue. At the same time, he rightly pointed out that while Article 20 gives citizens the right to spread their faith, this right does not include that right to convert someone to another religion by coercion or instigation.

In recent years, the supposedly forced conversions of many minors, especially women, have created a feeling of insecurity among non-Muslim communities in Pakistan. The LHC’s verdict will not allay that fear and may even encourage those who support such unethical acts. In its ruling, the court cited an example from Islamic history to support its claim about child converters, saying that neither the Quran nor any hadith prescribes a minimum age for conversion. The fact is, however, that it can be difficult to find another exceptional minor with the prudence necessary to make such a life-changing decision. In addition, none of the Islamic sources of law stipulate a minimum age for marriage. Nevertheless, a minimum age for marriage is in the law books as a result of modern legislation that in no way violates religious rules.

Posted in Dawn, September 27, 2021


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