Sun, 1 Oct 2023


Apex court grants woman leave to challenge religious status
Published on: Monday, May 22, 2023
By: FMT, Ho Kit Yen
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Apex court grants woman leave to challenge religious status
The Federal Court will hear the appeal of a woman who claims she was unilaterally converted to Islam by her mother when still a child.
PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court will hear a 37-year-old woman’s final appeal challenging her religious status as a Muslim.

Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abdul Rahman Sebli granted the woman leave to pursue her appeal, after lawyers appearing for the Selangor Islamic religious council (Mais) and the Selangor government did not raise any objection.

The other judges who sat with Rahman were Justices Mary Lim and Zabariah Yusof.

The court will hear the woman’s appeal based on six legal questions.

The woman, who originally professed the Hindu faith, was still a child when she was converted to Islam unilaterally by her mother.

Born in 1986, she said the conversion took place in 1991 at the Selangor Islamic religious department’s (Jais) office while her parents were in the midst of a divorce, which was finalised a year later.

Her mother went on to marry a Muslim man in 1993, and her father died in an accident three years later.

The woman contends that despite her conversion into Islam, her mother and stepfather allowed her to continue practising the Hindu faith, which she had been born into.

In 2021, the Shah Alam High Court had granted a declaration that she was not a Muslim.

However, Mais succeeded in getting the Court of Appeal to reinstate her as a Muslim. Justices Yaacob Sam and Nazlan Ghazali ruled in favour of Mais while Justice Ravinthran Paramaguru dissented.

The appeals court, in its majority ruling, held that civil courts were not empowered to hear cases involving the renunciation of religion.

It noted that she had previously filed a suit in the Kuala Lumpur shariah court, seeking a declaration that she was “no longer a Muslim”, which was rejected.

The woman brought the present civil court action after the shariah court handed down its decision.

In his minority judgment, Ravindran said the Selangor enactment applicable at the time clearly stated that a person could only convert to Islam upon reaching the age of 18.

The woman is represented by lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, while Haniff Khatri Abdulla appeared for Mais. The Selangor government was represented by state legal adviser Salim Soib @ Hamid.

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