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Sabah Shariah Court declares a Roman Catholic woman a non-Muslim

syarianKOTA KINABALU – The Shariah High Court here has allowed a Roman Catholic woman’s application, declaring she is not a Muslim.

Judge Nawawi Diman said he was satisfied that Ervinna Chua Soo Kea @ Ervinna Abdullah, 39, did not fall within the meaning of “Orang Islam” under Section 2 of the Majlis Ugama Islam Negeri Sabah 2004 Enactment.

In deciding whether the plaintiff was a Muslim under Section 2 of the Enactment, the judge referred to Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution and the Federal Court’s decision in Subashini A/P Rajasingam v Saravanan a/l Thangathoray and other appeals.

The Borneo Post reported that the judge held that based on the evidence, Ervinna’s religion followed her mother’s as her father had not taken her with him when he converted to Islam. This, Nawawi said, was enough to prove that her father wanted her to remain in her Christian religion.

During the trial, which commenced on 29 March 2016, her father had testified that Ervinna had not been converted to Islam and that she was at all times been taken care of by her non-Muslim mother and grandmother.

Nawawi further held, according to the Borneo Post report, that there was no evidence that Ervinna’s Muslim father, when he was living with her prior to the divorce, had raised her as a Muslim by teaching her prayers, fasting or other Islamic practices.

The judge took into account the fact that she had not practiced the life of a Muslim throughout her life, said the report.

In arguing her case, Ervinna, who was born on 1 June 1976, pleaded that she was born to a Christian family and that her father had converted to Islam on 9 March 1977, and he did so alone without taking her or her mother for the same purpose.

Ervinna, who was represented by counsel Hamid Ismail, also said after her parents divorced, she stayed with her mother and grandmother who are non-Muslims. She said her problems started when she lost her identity card in 2008.

Ervinna said the National Registration Department (NRD) issued her a Temporary Identity Document in which her religion was clearly stated as Christian. When the said document’s period expired, the plaintiff went to renew it at the NRD.

However, the NRD requested her to check with the Sabah Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JHEAINS) about her religious status because her father’s name was Abdullah.

Ervinna said the NRD had written a letter to JHEAINS about the matter and that the latter had confirmed that her name was not listed as a Muslim.

Nevertheless, the NRD issued a new Temporary Identity Document with the religious status as “Tiada Maklumat” (No information).

On 12 August  2009, Ervinna filed an application in the Shariah High Court seeking a declaration that she was not a Muslim. The application was dismissed and the Shariah High Court declared that she was a Muslim.

After failing in another bid to have her religion reinstated as “Christian” at the Shariah High Court, Ervinna appealed to the Shariah Court of Appeal, said the Borneo Post report.

On 2 December 2014, the appeal was allowed and the appellate court ordered that the application be tried before a different judge and the earlier order be set aside. – FMT

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