Appeal against convert case in January

I can’t understand why there is a need for appeal when the Syariah High Court has already decided to allow Muslim convert Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah, 39, to renounce Islam and revert to her original faith.

GEORGE TOWN: The Syariah Court of Appeal has fixed Jan 6 and 7 to hear an appeal against a Syariah High Court’s decision allowing Muslim convert Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah, 39, to renounce Islam and revert to her original faith.

The state Islamic Religious Council (MAIPP), in appealing against the decision, stated in its record of appeal that one of its grounds was that the trial judge had misconstrued the relevant Section 61(3)(b)(X) of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Penang) Enactment 2004.

The council said the question was whether the Section gave room for a person to convert out of the Muslim faith or whether it merely gave the court power to determine if a person was still a Muslim.

It said another point was the court failed to consider that there was actually a lapse of slightly over a year from the date of Siti Fatimah’s conversion to Islam to the actual date of her marriage.

On May 8, Syariah High Court judge Othman Ibrahim granted Siti Fatimah a declaration that she was no longer a Muslim, and ordered the defendant MAIPP to cancel her certificate of conversion to Islam.

He said it was clear from the evidence that Siti Fatimah had not practised the teachings of Islam and had maintained her Buddhist faith.

He also said he regretted that the council did not take quick action to save the faith of the convert, and that the council should establish procedures to ensure proper supervision of new converts.

The council immediately filed its notice of appeal on the very day of the judgment.

Siti Fatimah, whose Chinese name is Tan Ean Huang, from Nibong Tebal, filed the application in May 2006.

In her affidavit, she said she converted to Islam in July 1998 for the sake of marrying an Iranian named Ferdoun Ashanian in 1999 but had not practised its teachings.

She said Ferdoun left her a few months after their marriage and she had no knowledge of his whereabouts. She also said she had maintained her Buddhist leanings and prayed to deities like Tua Pek Kong, Kuan Yin and Thi Kong.

On Thursday, the council’s counsel Ahmad Munawir Abdul Aziz told judges Datuk Md Yusup Che Teh, Datuk Ibrahim Lembut and Datuk Muhammad Asri Abdullah that he had just filed an additional record of appeal containing the sealed copy of the High Court order and a document that was tendered directly to the High Court but not made available to the parties earlier.

However, Siti Fatimah’s counsel Ahmad Jailani Abdul Ghani had yet to receive a copy of the record, and both parties proposed that they present written submissions to the court.

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