The peculiar case of an elderly Penan woman and her MyKad

A group photo of Suhakam delegation paying courtesy call on Zulkifli (centre) are from left: Noor Aziah, Othman, Nik, Lok and Madeline.

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Aug 18: In Sarawak, and to a large extent in Sabah too, not all Bumiputeras who have ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ in their MyKad are Muslims.

This is especially true among the Melanaus in Sarawak whereby many of them are actually Christians.


However, a peculiar case involving an elderly Penan woman who has been given ‘binti’ in her previous identity card (IC) even though she was never converted to Islam has sought assistance from Suhakam Sarawak.

According to Suhakam Sarawak Commissioner Dr Madeline Berma, the case was very peculiar because when the elderly Penan woman applied to change her IC to MyKad, her religion was stated as ‘Islam’.

“So, she brought up the matter to Suhakam Sarawak on how to rectify the matter.

“And today, Suhakam Sarawak referred the case to the Minister of Religious Affairs Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohammad al-Bakri, who has assured that his ministry will collaborate with the Sarawak Islamic Department in matters pertaining to Islam,” Madeline told DayakDaily after she and other Suhakam commissioners paid a courtesy call on Zulkifli at the his office in Putrajaya this morning.

Leading the Suhakam delegation to pay courtesy call on Zulkifli today were Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Othman Hashim, Suhakam deputy chairman Datuk Lok Kim Pheng, Prof Datuk Dr Noor Aziah Mohd Awal, Assoc Prof Dr Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh and Madeline.

Madeline also mentioned that the most common case involving adults who converted to Islam was due to marriage.

“But in some cases, after their marriages didn’t work out, they wanted to revert back to their previous faiths,” she said.

Additionally, Madeline pointed out that there were some cases involving adults who had converted to Islam upon marriage but later, divorced and then remarried, to non-Muslims.

“So, when they remarry in non-Muslim rites, it is considered illegal in the eyes of Islam. And what make matters more complicated is when there are children born into such marriages,” she said.

However, there were also cases whereby children below 18 were converted upon their parents’ conversion to Islam but never practiced the religion  as they were brought up by either their grandparents or relatives.

“The Religious Affairs Minister was very sympathetic with the fate of these children. So, he promised to look into the issue,” she stated.

As such Madeline appealed to those who faced similar situations to come forward to Suhakam Sarawak so that their cases could be presented to the relevant government agencies.

“Suhakam Sarawak will work closely with Children’s Commissioner, the Sarawak Religious authorities, National Registration Department and other relevant authorities to look into these matters,” she added.—DayakDaily

Zulkifli and Madeline.