Article 11 is the name of a coalition of civil society groups from diverse backgrounds and interests. It was formed in May 2004 in response to cases that highlighted the problems faced by some Malaysians, which involve the interpretation of some provisions of the Federal Constitution.
Background to the formation of Article 11
In April 2004, the civil High Court in Kuala Lumpur granted custody of 2 young boys aged 2 and 4 years to their Hindu mother. The judge imposed one condition - she was not to expose her sons to her Hindu faith. The 2 boys were previously, without her knowledge or consent, converted to Islam by her estranged husband, himself a recent convert to Islam.
The same court had earlier dismissed an application by the Hindu mother for a declaration that the conversion of the 2 young children to Islam violated her parental right to co-determine the religious upbringing of the children. The reasoning of the court was that it had no jurisdiction, as the children were now Muslim and the correctness or otherwise of their conversion was a matter for the Syariah Court.
Shamala's case brought home the point that the constitutional role of the civil High Court as the protector of the rights of the ordinary citizen was fast becoming illusory. The implications of this case, however, became the rallying force that drew together a small number of concerned NGOs and members of civil society. This group noted that besides Sharmala's case, there were other cases that had impacted the right of belief and the right to practise one's belief as guaranteed under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution. By May 2004, Shamala's case had given life to a coalition of NGOs, which has come to be known as Article 11.
Our mission is to ensure a Malaysia that:
• upholds the supremacy of the Federal Constitution;
• protects every person equally, regardless of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender; and
• is firmly...