Crime & Courts

[Updated] Federal Court dismisses woman's appeal to challenge religious status

PUTRAJAYA: A 38-year-old woman failed in her last bid nullify her conversion into Islam, which occurred when she was five by her Muslim-convert mother.

This comes after a three-judge panel at the Federal Court led by Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Datuk Amar Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, affirmed the lower court's decision today in a split 2-1 verdict.

Other members of the bench were Federal Court judges Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Datuk Abu Bakar Jais.

In delivering the decision, Abang Iskandar said he and Abu Bakar were of the view that the appeal had no merit.

"The Court of Appeal did not err in its decision to restore the woman's religious status.

"Therefore, the lower court's decision is upheld, and the woman's appeal is dismissed.

"The court did not issue any order for costs," he said.

On Jan 13, last year, an appellate court overturned the High Court's decision on Dec 21, 2021, which nullified the woman's conversion to Islam by her Muslim-convert mother.

Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali when delivering the majority decision said the civil court did not have the power to hear cases involving renunciation.

He said the woman came to civil court after her renunciation bid was rejected at the Syariah Court.

Meanwhile, Lim in her dissenting judgment, said the appellant's religion was changed to Islam when she was five years old on May 17, 1991.

"The woman was underage and had not reached puberty when her religion was changed by her mother, which is clearly invalid.

"Her (the appellant) identity remains according to the constitution, which stipulates the religion at birth," she said.

The woman, born in Selangor to a Hindu father and a Buddhist mother who later converted to Islam, filed an originating summons in the Shah Alam High Court on May 10, 2021.

She was seeking a declaration that she is not a Muslim and wanted the National Registration Department (NRD) to remove the word "Islam" from her identity card.

She claimed that her mother converted her to Islam in 1991 at the Selangor Islamic Religious Department.

At the material time, her parents were in the midst of a divorce.

After the divorce, her mother married a Muslim man in 1993 while her father died in an accident in 1996.

The woman said despite her conversion into Islam, she continued to profess the Hindu religion and that her mother and stepfather allowed her to practice Hinduism— the religion she was initially practiced.

In 2013, the woman filed an application at the Kuala Lumpur Shariah High Court seeking to renounce Islam but her application for renunciation was dismissed in 2017, and she was ordered to attend a series of counselling sessions.

The Shariah Appeals Court also upheld the ruling.

The woman then filed the suit in the Shah Alam High Court (civil) in 2021 and succeeded in getting a declaration that she is not a Muslim.

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