Renunciation of Islam: Woman’s appeal dismissed

Quoted from the Malaysian Insider online.

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 5 — A woman who converted to Islam failed today in her appeal before the Court of Appeal against the High Court’s refusal to allow her application for a declaration that she had the right to renounce Islam and embrace Christianity.

Justice Datuk Tengku Baharudin Shah Tengku Mahmud in a 2-1 majority decision said the appeal brought by the 35-year-old woman was incompetent before the court as the person (appellant) named in the originating summons at the High Court stage no longer existed — she had changed her name to a Muslim one.

Justice Tengku Baharudin, who presided over the hearing with Justices Datuk Vincent Ng and Datuk Sulong Mat Jeraie, dismissed the appeal with no costs.

In the originating summons at the High Court stage, she had stated her original Chinese name in the application, but the name had been changed to a Muslim name after she had converted to Islam.

On Feb 15, 2005, the woman in an amended originating summons sought, among others, declarations from the High Court that she had the right to renounce Islam and practise the Christian religion under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution and that she could delete her Muslim name and substitute it with her original name.

She named the Selangor Religious Affairs Council, Selangor Religious Affairs Department, Selangor government, the National Registration Department (NRD) director-general and Malaysian government as respondents.

On May 17, 2005, the Shah Alam High Court allowed the respondents’ application to strike out her application on the basis that the High Court had no jurisdiction to hear and decide on the matter, and it also did not hear or adjudicate on the merits of the originating summons.

The woman in the summons said she embraced Islam in 1992 and changed her name to a Muslim name, and two years later she married a Malay man and was divorced in 1997.

She contended that after converting to Islam, she did not practise the tenets of the religion and her conversion was purely for the purpose of marrying the man.

On June 9, 2003, through a deed poll and statutory declaration (SD), she affirmed that she had embraced Christianity and had reverted to using her original Chinese name.

The woman then applied to the NRD to change the name in her identity card (IC) to her original name (Chinese name). However, the NRD on Sept 18, 2003, informed her that it had no jurisdiction to approve her application unless an order of renunciation of Islam was obtained from the Syariah court.

At today’s proceeding, Justice Tengku Baharudin questioned the parties on whether the woman’s appeal was competent before the court as two names – the Chinese and Muslim names – were stated in her appeal.

“The question before us is who is appearing in the appeal. Is it the Chinese name or the Muslim name?” added Justice Sulong.

Counsel Edmund Bon, representing the woman, submitted that the appeal was competent as the Chinese name and Muslim name were the same person in the appeal.

“There is no dispute as to the identity of the appellant. There is no confusion because the appellant is the same person as the name stated in the appeal application,” he said.

Bon submitted that the appellant was a legal and natural person, and a Malaysian citizen who sought a legal remedy in the Court of Appeal.

Selangor legal advisor Datin Paduka Zauyah Be Loth Khan, representing the state, submitted that the appeal was incompetent because the appellant in her SD had used her Muslim name but when she signed the SD, she used her Chinese name.

Zauyah said even if the appellant used her Muslim name in the appeal, the appeal was also incompetent because in her SD and deed poll, she stated that she was not going to use her Muslim name anymore.

Senior federal counsel Arik Sanusi Yeop Johari, for the NRD and the government, submitted that the appellant had produced the documents with two names stated.

“The right authority to determine her legal entity is the NRD based on her IC. Therefore, the appellant must get approval from the NRD to change the Muslim name to her Chinese name, which was rejected by the NRD,” he said.

Meanwhile, outside the court, Bon had asked the media not to divulge the name of the woman for safety reasons. — Bernama

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