GEORGE TOWN: No thanks to an old error in his identity card, 34-year-old Johann Lim Noordin has been forced to put off plans to marry his girlfriend and buy property.
And those are just two of the problems he faces, all because his name sounds Muslim although he is not.
Lim was born to Buddhist parents in Penang and has never changed his religion. But on his MyKad, he is Johann Lim Noordin bin Billy Noordin and his religion is given as “Islam”.
The errors were made when he applied for his MyKad at the age of 12 and he has had to live with them since.
His problem first came under the media spotlight three years ago, but Lim said even that failed to help him resolve his problem.
“I am not getting any younger,” he said in an interview with FMT. “Why should I have to go through so many obstacles to get my IC fixed? It should have been done easily.
“No religious department in the country has any record of my being a Muslim. I have signed a statutory declaration proclaiming I am not Muslim. Why am I now told to go to the shariah court when I am not a Muslim?
“My constitutional rights have been violated. No one dares to do anything to help. All they do is keep telling me to go to the shariah court.”
On June 14, 2014, in response to Lim’s application, the National Registration Department (NRD) said he was regarded as Muslim because his father was a Muslim.
The department also claimed that Lim first made his complaint only in 2011. It asked him to provide a letter from the Penang Islamic Department stating that he was not Muslim. The state Islamic department, however, said it could not verify the religious status of the applicant.
“According to NRD regulations, if one claims to be a non-Muslim but is a Muslim on record, the change of religion is a decision that rests with the shariah court,” read a copy of the letter signed by the NRD public relations office on the Public Complaints Bureau’s website.
Lim said his father was never a Muslim.
He said an oral complaint was immediately made at the NRD when he received his MyKad in 1994.
“When I first received my IC when I was 12, the family wanted it changed immediately,” he said. “But the department required both parents to give consent and my father at the time was living and working overseas. So we thought we would get to it when he came back.”
Lim’s father, Billy Noordin, 64, works with drug enforcement agencies in the United States and Saudi Arabia. He is of Chinese and Indian descent.
His mother, Lim Jee Yew, 65, is Chinese and a housewife in Penang.
When he was 21, Lim went to the NRD to upgrade to the new MyKad. He also asked the NRD to remove his Muslim status.
“The officer told me I could not use the name on my birth certificate. He told me to get a different name. At the time, I thought it ridiculous of the NRD to ask me to change my name; so I decided to ignore it.”
On Oct 7, 2011, he applied to the NRD for the erroneous details to be corrected.
“I have since given them copies of my parents’ identity cards, birth certificates and a supporting letter from the Penang Islamic Religious Department declaring I am not Muslim,” he said.
Lim also provided the NRD with his brother’s MyKad. Jason, 32, is not recorded as Muslim on it.
“My only brother does not have my problem,” he said. “On his IC, he is Jason Lim Noordin and not a Muslim. He got married three years ago and has a daughter. I am envious.”
After a few email exchanges with the NRD, Johann said, he was informed by the case officer that he would need to go to the shariah court to have his details revised.
“I asked several high-level politicians to help me. They promised a lot of things, but after a few weeks, they would tell me, sorry, the NRD says your father is Muslim.
“If my father was indeed a Muslim, he would have a ‘bin’ in his name, and that would be reflected on my birth certificate as well,” Lim said.
More recently, he misplaced his wallet and had to get a replacement MyKad. However, the NRD told him he would have to cancel his 2011 application to amend his name in order to get a replacement.
In desperate need of his MyKad, Lim agreed to the cancellation with a heavy heart. “So here I am, having to start all over again,” he said.