PERKIM, Penang Islam council get leave to fight conversion challenge
PUTRJAYA, March 25 — The Muslim Welfare Organisation (PERKIM) and the Penang Islamic Religious Council were given the nod by the Federal Court here today to appeal against an appellate court’s decision in reverting back to the Penang High Court to hear an application brought by a female factory worker who is questioning the validity of her conversion to Islam.
A five-member panel led by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif allowed their application for leave to appeal to the Federal Court.
“I think it is a fit and proper case for the Federal Court to decide,” said Justice Raus who presided on the panel with Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and Federal Court judges Datuk Hashim Yusof, Tan Sri Abdull Hamid Embong and Datuk Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha.
The court would determine two legal questions. One is whether Section 121 (A) of the Federal Constitution and Section 61(3)(b)(x) of the administration of religion of Islam Penang Enactment 2004 apply and binds the respondent, Siti Hasnah Vangarama Abdullah.
On January 12 last year, the Court of Appeal reverted Siti Hasnah’s case back to the High Court in Penang after ruling that the High Court had the jurisdiction to hear her originating summons, which she had filed questioning the validity of her conversion to Islam when she was seven years old.
On August 4 2010, the High Court struck out Siti Hasnah’s case after it (the High Court) ruled that the court did not have the jurisdiction to hear her case and that her matter was a subject matter exclusively for the Syariah court.
In her originating summons filed on December 23 2009, Siti Hasnah, 29, named as defendants Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his capacity as PERKIM chairman, former PERKIM officer Raimi Abdullah and the Penang Islamic Religious Council.
In her application, Siti Hasnah sought for a declaration that the defendants had wrongfully caused her to undergo a religious conversion process when she was seven years old in 1989.
In her affidavit supporting her application, the mother of three children claimed that she was in the Ramakrishna orphanage when she was taken by Raimi to the Kadi Bandaraya Pulau Pinang to take affirmation of faith to renounce Hinduism and embrace Islam.
She claimed that the conduct of the defendants to order her to recite the “kalimah shahadat” on December 28 1989 was wrong in law.
She said she did not understand the content and the meaning of the words in the “Sijil Akuan Masuk Islam” which she had read, recited and signed, adding that at the age of seven years, she did not have any choice but to follow the defendants’ orders to recite the “kalimah shahadat”.
Siti Hasnah also wants the court to instruct the National Registration Department to change her religion and her Muslim name to her original Hindu name Banggarma a/p Subramaniam in her MyKad and omit the word Islam from her identity card.
In his affidavit, Raimi said according to the records obtained by PERKIM, Siti Hasnah, together with her parents and her other siblings, converted to Islam in 1983.
Siti Hasnah was one year old then. At the age of five, her parents placed her at the Ramakrishna orphanage and she was there for a year and a half. Her mother died in 1989 and her father died in 2004.
Siti Hasnah married S. Sockalingam, 32, under Hindu customary rites. The couple did not register their marriage. — Bernama