She’s Buddhist, rules syariah appeals court
NEW STRAITS TIMES
GEORGE TOWN: The Syariah Court of Appeal has upheld a landmark decision allowing a Chinese woman to revert to her Buddhist faith after ruling that her conversion was invalid.
The decision was delivered yesterday by a three-member panel comprising Datuk Ibrahim Lembut, Datuk Muhammad Asri Abdullah and Datuk Abu Bakar Ahmad.
Ibrahim ruled that Tan Ean Huang (picture) may have recited the shahadat (oath of allegiance to Islam) during her conversion in 1998 but it was clear she never embraced the religion.
“It is clear from her lifestyle that she only converted to marry her Iranian boyfriend.
“She has been living a non-Islamic lifestyle and praying to deities and this clearly shows she had never embraced Islam,” he said.
Tan, 39, took up the Muslim name of Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah after her marriage in 2004. However, she applied to revert to her Buddhist faith after the man left her two years later.
In May last year, the Syariah High Court here allowed her to renounce Islam, ruling that she had never practised the faith and had converted merely for the sake of marrying her lover.
However, the Penang Islamic Affairs Council appealed against the decision and the Court of Appeal yesterday reinforced the point that Tan’s conversion was invalid as she never intended to become a Muslim in the first place.
Tan, who was represented by Ahmad Jailani Abdul Ghani, later expressed relief that the issue of her conversion had been resolved.
“I am happy that it is finally over. It has been a long struggle. I intend to go home and offer thanksgiving prayers at a Buddhist temple.”
Ahmad Munawir Abdul Aziz, who represented the Islamic Affairs Council, said the Court of Appeal’s decision made it clear that Tan’s was a unique case, where her conversion itself was declared invalid.
“The original decision gave the impression that one could simply convert out of Islam.
“However, the Court of Appeal’s decision made it clear that this is not the case,” he said, adding the decision would also remove fears among Muslims that conversions may be subject to review.
Munawir added that the court made it clear that Muslims could not simply renounce Islam as long as their conversion was done in a proper way.