PUTRAJAYA: The Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) has succeeded in its appeal to reinstate a 37-year-old woman as a Muslim.
In delivering the Court of Appeal’s majority decision, Justice Yaacob Sam said the court held that the appeal has merits.
Yaacob and Justice Nazlan Ghazali ruled in favour of Mais in the majority judgement, while Justice Ravinthran Paramaguru dissented.
The woman, who originally professed the Hindu faith, was still a child when she was converted to Islam unilaterally by her mother.
The woman, born in 1986, said her mother had unilaterally converted her in 1991 at the Selangor Islamic religious department’s (Jais) office.
The conversion took place while her parents were in the midst of a divorce, which was finalised in 1992. Her mother went on to marry a Muslim man in 1993, and her father died in an accident three years later.
The woman contended 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.
Civil courts cannot hear renunciation cases, court says
Delivering the majority ruling, Nazlan said the civil courts are not empowered to hear cases involving the renunciation.
He pointed out that the woman had previously filed a suit at the Kuala Lumpur shariah court, seeking a declaration that she was “no longer a Muslim.” However, her renunciation bid was rejected.
The woman only came to the civil court after the shariah court’s decision.
“In this instance, there is no evidence that her (late) father had ever challenged her conversion.
“The shariah court had already made a determination that she professed Islam,” Nazlan said, when distinguishing the case from earlier Federal Court decisions involving Rosliza Ibrahim and M Indira Gandhi’s children.
In Rosliza’s case, the apex court held that she was never a Muslim. The evidence showed that she was raised by her Buddhist mother, and there was no proof that she professed Islam, said Nazlan.
Meanwhile, in the case involving Indira’s children, the Federal Court held that consent was needed from both parents before a child converts to Islam.
Nazlan said since the woman’s status has been decided by the shariah court, the case should end there.
“Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution was inserted to stop parties coming to the civil court to review shariah court decisions.
“The civil court clearly has no power to review a shariah court’s decision, let alone reverse, depart from, or re-litigate (it). In our view, this is tantamount to breaching Article 121A,” he said.
Then Selangor enactment barred conversion of minors, says dissenting judge
Dissenting from the majority opinion, Ravindran said the Selangor enactment applicable at the time clearly states that a person can only convert to Islam after age 18.
“The (woman’s) 1991 conversion is anything but lawful and was in clear violation of Section 147 Administration of Muslim law Enactment,” he added.
Besides that, Ravindran said the woman’s mother gave her the freedom to practice Hinduism.
“The High Court was correct in granting her declaratory relief,” he said.
The woman was represented by lawyer Surendra Ananth while Haniff Khatri Abdulla appeared for Mais.
State legal adviser Salim Soib @ Hamid appeared for the Selangor government, which was named a co-appellant.
Surendra told reporters that the woman’s legal team will seek leave from the Federal Court to appeal today’s decision.
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