Apex court reserves decision on woman's appeal against Muslim status

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court here on Monday (Feb 19) reserved its decision on the appeal brought by a 37-year-old woman to overturn a Court of Appeal’s decision in reinstating her as a Muslim.

A three-member panel chaired by Court of Appeal president Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim reserved judgment after hearing submissions by the woman’s counsel Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Selangor state legal advisor Datuk Salim Soib@Hamid who represented the Selangor state government, and lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla who acted for the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS).

The other two judges on the panel were Federal Court Judges Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Abu Bakar Jais.

On Dec 12, 2013, the woman filed a summons at the Kuala Lumpur Syariah High Court for a declaration that she was no longer a Muslim. On July 20, 2017, the Syariah High Court dismissed her summons and the Syariah Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal on Aug 1, 2017.

She then filed a lawsuit at the civil High Court seeking a declaration that she is not a person professing the religion of Islam and named MAIS and the Selangor state government as respondents.

On Dec 21, 2021, the High Court in Shah Alam allowed the woman’s suit and declared that she is not a Muslim but that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal in a 2-1 majority decision on Jan 13, 2023, following the appeals by MAIS and the Selangor state government.

The woman was granted leave to proceed with her appeal to the Federal Court on May 23, last year on six legal questions.

Earlier, Mohamed Haniff Khatri submitted that the appellant has not succeeded in establishing through evidence that she never professed the religion of Islam.

"The appellant is a Muslim within the definition of 'Muslim' pursuant to Section 2(c) and (e) of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 based on the entire factual matrix and the force of the evidence.

"The Syariah High Court and Syariah Court of Appeal of Kuala Lumpur is a court of competent jurisdiction under Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution and seized with jurisdiction to hear and determine the issue of the religious status of the appellant.

"This is a renunciation case,” he said adding that civil courts have no jurisdiction to review decisions made by both Syariah Courts.

Meanwhile, Salim submitted that the Court of Appeal has made the correct decision by allowing the respondents’ appeal, and the Civil Court cannot interfere with the findings of fact made by the Syariah Court that the appellant is a Muslim.

"The Court of Appeal’s decision was in line with the Federal Court’s ruling in the case of Subashini Rajasingam v Saravanan Thangathoray, which not only recognises the position of the Syariah Court but also respects and does not interfere with the orders issued by the Syariah Court,” he said.

According to Salim, the Syariah Court, in its decision, found that the appellant had a foundation of knowledge as a Muslim and was able to recite the Kalimah Syahadah and explain the meaning of the Kalimah Syahadah when asked to do so.

"Therefore, the appellant still understands the teachings of Islam well and still carries out the commands of Allah,” he said.

Malik Imtiaz countered that there were multiple assertions made during the Syariah proceedings that his client never professed the Muslim religion.

"There was nothing to show that the appellant had declared the Kalimah Syahadah, which was required for a conversion to Islam,” he added. - Bernama

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woman , conversion , Islam , Federal Court , appeal , hearing


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