Sunday, March 8, 2009

A non-Muslim, rules court

SEREMBAN: A 60-year-old man whose identity card carries a Malay name, but was raised as a Christian since he was 2-months-old, was yesterday declared a non-Muslim by the Syariah Court.

However, Mohammad Shah @ Gilbert Freeman's application to have his Malay name removed from his identity card was rejected by judge Mohd Nadzri Abdul Rahman Ibrahim.

Nadzri said he was satisfied and did not have any doubt that Shah was a non-Muslim before, during and after the application was made through his lawyer Hanif Hasan.

"I believe a name does not reveal a person's religion, although it normally provides a picture of someone's religion.

"The facts from his birth, baptism and marriage certificate, including oral statements by witnesses, have proved that the applicant has been brought up as a Christian since he was 2-months-old."
He said the applicant was born as Mohammad Shah @ Gilbert Freeman on April 17, 1948, was baptised at the Seremban Visitation Church at the age of 3 and was married to P. Anjalie in a Christian ceremony on Aug 3, 1974.

"Even though Shah's father is a Muslim, Section 108 of the Administration of Islamic Law (Negri Sembilan) Enactment does not apply because he was never raised as a Muslim and did not embrace the religion as stated under the law.

"There is also no proof of a valid marriage, according to either Muslim or Christian rites, between the applicant's father, Mohd Syed @ Mohammad Said, and his late mother, Doris Josephine Freeman.

"His mother did not embrace Islam and was a Christian until her death on March 19, 1969. She was buried at the Sikamat Christian Cemetery in Seremban."

On the removal of the name Mohammad Shah from the applicant's identification card, Nadzri said the court only had the authority to ascertain his religious status.

"The application to remove his Malay name pertains to the administration of the National Registration Department as it is the department's jurisdiction to manage the registration process."

NST Online » Local News


roy said...

KUALA LUMPUR: In a rare victory for Malaysia's religious minorities, an Islamic court yesterday ruled that a man given an Islamic name at birth was in fact a Christian.

Mohammad Shah alias Gilbert Freeman took his case to the syariah court in Negeri Sembilan state after the National Registration Department refused to accept he was a Christian, or allow him to drop his Islamic name when he applied for a new identity card.

Lawyer Hanif Hassan said his client, 61, was raised as a Christian by his mother. His Islamic name came from his Muslim father, Mr Mohamed Said, who left the family when the boy was only two months old.

'I was never taught the Muslim faith; nor did I live accordingly. I lived with my mother till she died on March 19, 1969,' Mr Freeman was quoted as saying by The New Straits Times (NST).

Yesterday's case came a day after a Chinese man was reported to be challenging the conversion of his baby daughter to Islam by his estranged wife.

While Mr Freeman's case is not the first time that a syariah court has made such a decision, it was a rare move.

Last year, a syariah court allowed an ethnic Chinese woman, who had converted to Islam to marry a Muslim, to return to her original Buddhist faith.

In 2006, a court also allowed Ms Nyonya Tahir, a Malay woman, to be buried as a Buddhist. Though she was born a Muslim, she was raised as a Chinese and a Buddhist, and married a Chinese man.

In a high-profile case in 2007, a Malay-Muslim woman, Ms Lina Joy, lost a six-year legal battle to have her conversion to Christianity recognised.

According to NST, Mr Freeman was raised as a Christian, was married according to Christian rites and has three children who are Christians.

'The syariah court ruled he is not a Muslim. He is not practising Islam, and he hasn't applied to be a Muslim,' said Mr Hanif.

Mr Freeman had sought the court's help because he was getting on in age and did not want any confusion over whether he should receive a Christian burial, said his lawyer.

'This is a rare case, but it shows that the syariah courts are not rigid and are able to help resolve inter-religious disputes,' said Mr Hanif.

Mr Freeman's claims had been confirmed by his stepbrother, Mr Francis Freeman, 74, who told NST that their mother and Mr Mohamed Said had never married.

'After my father died in 1946, our mother moved to Seremban to live with her relatives and got to know Mohamed Said, who lived next door. I often argued with my mother for having relations with a Malay man, but she was adamant,' Mr Francis Freeman said.

However, they soon separated because of disputes over money, he added.

Court cases and disputes over religious conversions - especially when non-Muslim parents battle with Muslim spouses over custody of their children - have caused unhappiness among minority communities in Malaysia, where Malay Muslims make up about 60 per cent of the population.

There have been several cases of Islamic religious authorities claiming the bodies of people they said had converted secretly to Islam and carrying out Muslim funeral rites.

Political observers say the religious grievances of non-Muslims contributed to the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition's poor performance in the general election a year ago.


roy said...

This is a rare case, but it shows that the syariah courts are not rigid and are able to help resolve inter-religious disputes,' said Mr Hanif.