Woman born out of wedlock to Muslim father and Buddhist mother was never a Muslim, Federal Court hears

Published date16 December 2020
Publication titleMalay Mail Online

A Malaysian woman who was born to a Muslim man and a Buddhist woman was never a Muslim to begin with as the parents were not married and as she was an illegitimate child, and the declaration of her religious status as a non-Muslim should be made by the civil courts instead of the Shariah courts, the Federal Court heard today.

In this case, 39-year-old Rosliza Ibrahim has an identity card that states her religion as Islam, and has been waiting in a five-year legal battle for the civil courts to declare that she was never a Muslim and is not a Muslim, and that all Selangor state laws for Muslims do not apply to her and that Selangor Shariah courts have no jurisdiction over her.

At the High Court, Rosliza had shown proof that the Federal Territories and 11 states (Selangor, Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis and Terengganu) do not have any records of her mother converting to Islam or of her biological parents entering into a Muslim marriage, as well as provided the court with her late mother's October 8, 2008 statutory declaration of not being married to Rosliza's father when she was born.

Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal had previously in June 2017 and April 2018 respectively ruled against Rosliza, which led to the hearing of her appeal today involving two legal questions before the Federal Court.

Civil courts vs Shariah courts

One of the key questions of law today in the Federal Court was whether the High Court has exclusive jurisdiction - or is the only court with the powers - to hear and decide on a matter if it is about 'whether a person is or is not a Muslim under the law' instead of 'whether a person is no longer a Muslim', based on the Federal Constitution.

Rosliza's lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram today argued that both the High Court and Court of Appeal had wrongly categorised her case as being a Muslim seeking to stop being a Muslim and that this had resulted in them deciding that she could not get the civil courts to make a declaration on her religious status.

But Sri Ram said that Rosliza's case was different from the case of Lina Joy, where a Malay who was initially a Muslim had renounced the faith of Islam and where the Federal Court had in a -1 majority decision ruled in 2007 that such matters are for the Shariah courts to decide.

In Lina Joy's case, she went to court after the National Registration Department (NRD) allowed her to change her name but refused to remove the word 'Islam' and her...

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