High Court denies Muslim convert’s application to revert to Buddhism

Man pleads not guilty to intimidation, causing hurt to wife.

KUCHING, Oct 18: A woman’s wish to revert to Buddhism after divorcing her Muslim husband was turned down after her application was dismissed by the High Court here yesterday.

High Court Judge Stephen Chung dismissed the 24-year-old’s application with no order as to the cost on the grounds that this is not within the jurisdiction of the High Court.

The applicant, Faridah To Abdullah, had married her Muslim ex-husband when she was-16-years old in 2009. They divorced two years later. They have a daughter who is under the care of the father.

Her counsel Chan Khoon Moh said To, a Buddhist, will appeal to a higher court to convert back to her religion.

The director of Jabatan Agama Islam Sarawak, Majlis Agama Islam, director-general of National Registration Department (NRD) and the state government of Sarawak (State Attorney General’s Chambers) were named as respondents.

To had sought a declaration that she is a Buddhist, a letter of release from Islam from the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department and Sarawak Islamic Council, and orders compelling the NRD to change her name and religion in her identity card and its records.

In a landmark case in March last year, the Kuching High Court allowed a Bidayuh man, who was converted to Islam as a child by his parents, to renounce his religion.

Justice Datuk Yew Jen Kie allowed the application made by Azmi Mohamad Azam Shah @ Roneey Rebit, who was converted when he was 10-years-old.

She noted as the applicant was a minor when he was converted, he had no choice but to follow his parents, and the conversion was not of his volition. Thus, the applicant cannot be considered as a person professing the religion of Islam.

Yew said the decision was made under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.