High Court declares Selangor-born woman 'not a Muslim', says her unilateral conversion to Islam at age four invalid

Published date04 April 2022
Publication titleMalay Mail Online

The High Court has declared a 35-year-old woman - born in Selangor to a Hindu father and an initially Buddhist mother - to be not a person professing the religion of Islam, ruling that her unilateral conversion to Islam at the age of four by her Muslim convert mother was invalid from the start.

The Selangor-born woman had said her case is not about apostasy or leaving the faith of Islam, but was instead about her never being a Muslim in the first place.

This woman, identified only as D to protect her privacy, was born in November 1986 to a non-Muslim couple married under civil laws via the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976. Her late father was of Indian ethnicity, while her mother is of Chinese ethnicity.

D will be turning 36 this year. She has spent the last eight years going to the courts to seek a declaration that she is not a Muslim, in order to have the National Registration Department (NRD) remove the word 'Islam' from her identity card.

The facts in this case

Based on court documents sighted by Malay Mail, the mother in an affidavit said D was raised as a Hindu, with D continuing to live with the mother after the latter separated from the Hindu husband in around 1991.

The initially Buddhist mother said she decided to convert to Islam while waiting for the divorce proceedings with her initial husband to be concluded, as she intended to marry a Muslim man after the divorce.

On May 17, 1991 which was when D was months away from turning five, the mother went to the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) with the child.

The mother said she was told by a Jais officer that D would have to be converted to Islam to ensure that she has continued custody of the child, adding that the officer had also said D would be able to choose her religion once she turned 18.

The mother said she uttered the Kalimah Syahadah twice - or the declaration of belief for Islam - adding that her child D did not utter this and was unaware and did not understand what was happening.

In that same year, the mother received her conversion card that recorded her as having converted to Islam.

Jais on August 28, 1993 issued to D - who was just months away from turning seven years old - a conversion card, which recorded her as having been converted on May 17, 1991. This conversion card retained D's original name but replaced her father's name with the words 'binti Abdullah' (commonly given in Malaysia for situations such as converted Muslims).

The mother's divorce with D's father was finalised in 1992, and the High Court also granted the mother care and custody of the child. D then continued living with her mother, including after the mother married a Muslim man in 1993.

The mother said she did not inform D's father about the child's purported conversion and that he died in 1996, also telling the court in the affidavit that D continued to practise the Hindu religion and did not practise or profess the religion of Islam while staying with the mother.

In her affidavit, D herself said her mother and her stepfather allowed her to continue to practise and profess the Hindu religion, saying she frequently visited her father's family and prayed in Hindu temples and celebrated Hindu festivals with them, and that she never professed the religion of Islam or adopted Islamic beliefs such as only eating halal food or pray according to the Muslim faith.

D explained that she wanted to remove the label 'Islam' on her identity card as she never professed the religion of Islam, and around 2011 (which was when she was already an adult) decided to do so but said her application was rejected by the NRD.

Having read news reports of the Federal Court's 2007 decision in the case of Lina Joy who was also seeking to remove the word 'Islam' from her identity card, D said she then decided to go to the Shariah courts. D said she did not know then that the Shariah courts have no jurisdiction over her.

[In the Lina Joy case, a Malay woman named Azlina Jailani who had renounced Islam succeeded - on her second attempt - in getting the NRD to change her name on the identity card, but found that the...

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