Civil Court Has No Power To Hear Renunciation Of Islam Says Judge
Only the syariah court has the power to hear matters involving persons seeking to leave Islam, according to a civil court judge.
Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid also ruled that the civil court has no jurisdiction to preside over the matter of a Muslim-born woman who sought to renounce the faith.
On June 15, the Kuala Lumpur High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge dismissed the 32-year-old’s application for leave to commence judicial review to leave Islam as well as embrace Buddhism and Confucianism.
According to a copy of the written full grounds of judgment, Kamal pointed out that recent legal precedents showed that the civil court only has jurisdiction in cases where the party was never a Muslim from the onset.
He noted that the precedents also highlighted that only the syariah court has the power to hear matters where the party was no longer a Muslim, such as in the case of the 32-year-old woman.
He then referred to several Federal Court cases such as last year’s verdict that allowed Rosliza Ibrahim’s appeal to be declared that she was never a Muslim from birth.
In the Feb 5 apex court 7-2 majority decision, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat ruled that the civil court has power over cases where the party was never a Muslim, such as Rosliza, who was born an illegitimate child of a Muslim father and a non-Muslim mother.
The top judge pointed out that Rosliza was never a Muslim as she was raised by her Buddhist mother since birth, which is different from the syariah court having jurisdiction in cases where a properly-born Muslim person later seeks to renounce Islam.
“Therefore, it is my view that it is the syariah court that can give her the order to her application to renounce Islam. She will have to go to the syariah court to get the order as provided by the law.
“This is also supported by the decision of nothing less than the Federal Court and other cases cited above that the syariah court will have jurisdiction over cases involving renunciation of Islam.
“In answering the first issue as stated above as to whether the civil court has jurisdiction to hear cases involving syariah matters, the answer is in the negative.
“The civil court, in this case, has no jurisdiction to determine and to decide on the applicant’s application to renounce Islam as it falls within the jurisdiction of the syariah court,” the judge said.
The 32-year-old woman has since appealed to the Court of Appeal to quash the High Court verdict.
On March 4, she went to the civil court to nullify the syariah court’s decision to deny her bid to leave Islam.
Her judicial review named the Federal Territory Syariah Appeal Court, the Federal Territory Syariah High Court, the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP), and the government as first, second, third, and fourth respondents, respectively.
The woman, born to a Muslim convert man and Muslim-born woman on Feb 8, 1990, allegedly went through a multi-year failed bid at the syariah court to leave the religion and officially take on Confucianism and Buddhism.
She claimed that the Syariah High Court and Court of Appeal refused her bid as they held it would go against hukum syarak (Islamic principles) to allow a fellow Muslim to leave the faith.
The woman - whose parents have since divorced - claimed her Muslim mother never forced Islam on her and gave her free rein to determine her own faith.
She claimed her father only converted to Islam in order to marry her mother and that her parents never practised the faith.
Contending that she neither practised Islam nor even recited the kalimah syahadah, she initially went to the Federal Territory Syariah High Court to try to renounce Islam.
The kalimah syahadah - one of the five pillars of Islam - is an Islamic oath that reads “I bear witness that there is no deity but God (Allah), and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
The woman alleged that on Dec 10, 2018, the Syariah High Court ordered her to attend 12 pre-trial aqidah (faith) counselling sessions for a six-month period beginning Jan 14, 2019.
She said she then took leave from her employment in Oman and flew back to Malaysia to attend the 12 sessions which in the end managed to be completed between Jan 14 and 25 that year.
The woman claimed her mother and her mother’s close friend testified before the Syariah High Court over her faith in Confucianism and Buddhism.
She alleged however that on July 27, 2020, the Syariah High Court dismissed her bid and instructed her to undergo istitabah under MAIWP or the “Mufti’s Office”.
Under the country’s syariah system, istitabah refers to faith rehabilitation.
She claimed that the court also ordered her to undergo continuous Islamic classes as well as more aqidah counselling. - Mkini
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