jailani, peguam, ustaz, islam, syariah, undang-undang, law

Tan was never a Muslim, rules Syariah Appeals Court

Tan was never a Muslim, rules Syariah Appeals Court
Opalyn Mok

GEORGE TOWN (March 16. 2009):
The Syariah Appeals Court ruled today that Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah had never been a Muslim as her conversion to Islam was not valid.

Tan and counsel Ahmad Jailani Andul Ghani(right).

In the unanimous decision read out by Justice Datuk Ibrahim Lembut, the court declared that Siti Fatimah aka Tan Ean Huang could not be considered a Muslim and therefore was not an apostate.

“This is because the process of her conversion to Islam was not complete,” he said, adding that when Tan, 40, took the Syahadah oath, it was not with full sincerity but only with the intention to marry a Muslim.

“Based on her testimony and the testimonies heard in court that she had never practised the religion and had continued praying at Buddhist temples even after her conversion in 1998, we feel that her conversion to Islam right from the beginning was not valid.”

He said it was against the religion and an offence for a Muslim to become an apostate. “However, this is not the issue here as we find that she was never a Muslim, thus the issue of her being an apostate does not arise,” Ibrahim said, when handing down the decision by the three-man panel which also comprised Datuk Muhammad Asri Abdullah and Datuk Abu Bakar Ahmad.

Ibarahim took 45 minutes to read out the grounds for dismissing the state Islamic Affairs Council’s appeal against a landmark decision in May last year by Syariah High Court judge Othman Ibrahim who declared Tan a non-Muslim and allowed her to leave Islam.

In upholding that decision, Ibrahim said the other issue raised by the council as to whether the Syariah court had the jurisdiction to declare that a person was a non-Muslim or not was no longer relevant as the court had found that Tan was not a Muslim from the start.

Tan told reporters outside the court that she would give thanks at a temple near her home when she returned to Nibong Tebal.

Meanwhile, counsel for the council, Ahmad Munawir Abdul Aziz said the Syariah Appeals Court’s decision had “removed the fear among the Muslim community that conversion may be subjected to abuse”.

He said this also showed that one could not just convert out of Islam and that it was an offence to convert out of the religion. “The grounds for the decision has removed the misconception that one is entitled to freely convert out of Islam,” he said.

Tan filed applications to renounce Islam in May 2006. She converted in July 1998 to marry an Iranian but he left her a few months after their marriage. The case had dragged on in the Syariah court since 2006 until the decision by Othman in May 8 last year.

She was represented by Ahmad Jailani Abdul Ghani.


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