The Federal Court today heard the case of a legal bid by Rosliza Ibrahim, a woman born to a Muslim father but raised as a Buddhist by her mother, to change her religion.
Previously, the Court of Appeal and the High Court had ruled that her religion remained the same, citing the case of Lina Joy.
To refresh everyone’s memory, Lina Joy is a Muslim woman tried, unsuccessfully, to change her religion from Islam to Christianity. According to FMT, the Federal Court, in a majority ruling in 2007, held that Lina must first obtain a certificate from the Syariah Court to leave the religion before presenting it to the National Registration Department (JPN) for the word “Islam” to be removed from her identity card.
However, Rosliza’s lawyer, Gopal Sri Ram claims that his client was never a Muslim to begin with and both courts were wrong to equate her case to that of Lina Joy’s.
“This is not a case of an exit from the religion (Islam) as she (Rosliza) was never a Muslim before,” Sri Ram told the nine-member bench chaired by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.
The state government and the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) are respondents in the suit brought by Rosliza.
In April 2017, the High Court dismissed her appeal for a declaration that she was born as the illegitimate child of a Chinese mother and a Chinese Muslim father on grounds that her evidence was insufficient, and advised her to go through the Syariah Court.
Rosliza said she had gone to the religious authorities in 10 other states and that her parents did not have any records of her mother’s conversion to Islam or that a Muslim marriage had even taken place.
She claims that during her birth registration, it was presumed that she had been born a Muslim based on an assumption of a valid marriage between her parents and that her late mother had converted to Islam.
State legal adviser Salim [email protected] said that because the High Court had found that Rosliza’s father was a Muslim, she would automatically be a Muslim as well.
He was questioned by bench member Azahar Mohamed, who is also Chief Judge of Malaya, on what would status of Rosliza be if the two courts were wrong. Salim replied, “Then, she is an illegitimate child.”
However, Salim insisted that according to the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003, a person at birth is Muslim when either or both parents is Muslim.
Tengku Maimun said that Salim’s statement went against the principles of Islam as the child could be a Muslim only if both parents were validly married and were practising the religion.
Salim then told the bench that the marriage of Rosliza’s parents was valid even if there was no registration.
Tengku Maimun replied by asking if registration was not important in the case of khalwat raids carried out by religious authorities.
Senior Federal Counsel Suzana Atan added that “Rosliza also takes the mother’s religion if she is born out of wedlock.”
Lawyer Philip Koh Tong Ngee, who held a watching brief for the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism, said the Selangor enactment must be consistent with shariah law that “a child from an unwed couple cannot be a Muslim even if one of the parents practiced the faith.”
The bench has delayed their judgement.