Woman who wants to be declared a Buddhist gets leave to appeal

The Federal Court will deliberate on two questions of law in the case of a woman born to a Muslim father but raised as a Buddhist by her Buddhist mother.

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today allowed an application for leave to appeal by a woman born to a Muslim father but raised as a Buddhist by her Buddhist mother for a declaration that she is a not a Muslim.

Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who led a three-member bench, allowed Rosliza Ibrahim’s application to appeal against rulings of the Court of Appeal and the High Court.

Tengku Maimum said two questions of law needed further argument, and she directed that the papers be served on the Attorney-General’s Chambers for the government to take part in the appeal that will be heard later .

The top judge also directed that the court papers be served on the Attorney-General’s Chambers for them to take part in the appeal that will be fixed later .

Lawyer Gopal Sri Ram, who represented Rosliza, submitted that hjis client’s case was not about renunciation, as she was never a Muslim.

He said Rosliza’s mother had affirmed a statutory declaration that she and Rosliza’s father were never married and that Rosliza was never raised as a Muslim.

Selangor legal adviser Masri Mohd Daud appeared for the Selangor government, and lawyer Sulaiman Abdullah represented the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS).

Both objected to the leave application on the ground that the matter came under the jurisdiction of the shariah court.

Rosliza had sought declarations that the Islamic laws of Selangor do not apply to her and that the shariah court has no jurisdiction over her.

She said it had been presumed that she had been born a Muslim, based on an assumption of a valid marriage between her parents and an assumption that her late mother had converted to Islam.

The High Court in Shah Alam had dismissed her suit in April 2017 on grounds that the evidence she produced had failed to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that she was not a Muslim at birth.

The court also ruled that her remedy was in the shariah court.

Rosliza had said she had gone to the religious authorities in 10 other states and obtained confirmation that her parents did not have any records of her mother converting to Islam or that a Muslim marriage had taken place.

However, in 2018 the Court of Appeal affirmed the findings of the High Court.

Sri Ram told FMT that Rozliza’s case is an opportunity to revisit a 2007 case involving Lina Joy, a Muslim woman who sought, but failed, to be allowed to change her religion from Islam to Christianity.

The Federal Court ruled she must first obtain a certificate to leave the religion before presenting it to the National Registration Department for the word “Islam” to be removed from her identity card.