Court rules conversion illegal

GEORGE TOWN: The conversion of a Catholic woman to Islam was illegal because she was still a minor at the time of her conversion, the High Court ruled.

Justice Quay Chew Soon, in his ruling, said that the conversion done in 2020 was invalid due to non-compliance with Penang state Islamic laws which specify that the consent of both parents is necessary for minors to convert to Islam.

He said as the woman was underaged at the time of conversion and lacked parental consent, her conversion was invalid from the outset. The woman from Sabah was 17 years old in 2020.

“She was below 18 at the time of conversion. That is crucial. I am granting the declarations sought,” he said.

During the proceeding carried out via Zoom, Justice Quay asserted that the woman’s conversion conducted by the Penang Islamic Religious Council (MAINPP) on June 11, 2020 was invalid.

The judge issued a certiorari order to revoke her Islamic conversion certificate and all associated documents.

Additionally, he instructed the removal of her information from the state’s Muslim converts’ registry via a mandamus order, affirming her continued affiliation with the Catholic faith.

No ruling was made regarding costs yesterday.

Lawyer Dr Shamsher Singh Thind, who represented the woman, said the court had allowed the application based on the often-quoted Federal Court’s decision in the case of Indira Gandhi against the Perak Islamic Religious Affairs Department (2018).

“It is also based on Section 117(b) of Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Penang) Enactment 2004, which requires the consent from both parents before a minor shall be converted,” he said when contacted.

Shamsher said the law, which requires a minimum age before a child is allowed to change his or her religion, is meant to protect the child from being manipulated by irresponsible adults and agencies.

The woman, who is now 21, embraced Islam in 2020 to marry her then Muslim boyfriend. They ended the relationship a few months later.

The woman from Keningau stated in a judicial review filing that she converted to Islam at the office of the Islamic Propagation Society International along Jalan Argyll on June 11, 2020, when she was 17 years old.

Her parents, who are farmers in Keningau, submitted an affidavit confirming that she was a practising Catholic and had been baptised at the St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Keningau in 2005.

They asserted that they had never consented to their daughter’s conversion to Islam.

In the judicial review, the woman named MAINPP and the Penang state converts’ registry as respondents.

Beside Shamsher, the woman is also represented by J. Gunamalar and Abd Daud Abd Rahim while Dayang Roziekah appeared for MAINPP.

Deputy public prosecutors Naizatul Zima Tajudin and Charanjit Mahinder Singh appeared for the state converts’ registry.

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