KOTA KINABALU, Aug 17 — The Sabah branch of the National Registration Department (NRD) today denied it had wrongly categorised Christians here as Muslims, insisting the changes were made after verifying records of the applicants.
Disputing the complaints raised by Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sabah on behalf of 162 locals, Sabah NRD deputy director Adrian Allan Richard said the department was aware that the use of “bin” or “binti” in Sabahan names does not necessarily mean the person is Muslim.
As such, the department would not automatically “convert” their religion to Islam without checking their records.
“It is not our right or responsibility to dictate their religion. We always go by facts and records. We have to check their parent’s religion, marriage certificate and other logical records before we list their religion,” Adrian told Malay Mail Online when contacted Friday.
Rev Datuk Jerry Dusing, the president of Sabah Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), reiterated his call on the NRD to rectify cases of Bumiputera Christians with “bin” or “binti” in their names being wrongly classified as Muslims in their MyKads.
The evangelical church said it lodged a complaint with NRD two years ago for 162 such cases in Sabah, but was told that no further action could be taken because the files were lost.
Adrian denied receiving reports of lost files, saying that they have records dating back to the 1970s, which were digitally uploaded into their system.
“We have no agenda here, we only act according to facts. If it was indeed an administrative mistake, it will be easily cleared up by verifying past records,” he said, also denying previous reports that “technical glitches” prevented the correction process.
Adrian said that in some cases, applicants who came to NRD claiming the “wrong classification” had backgrounds where one or both of their parents were Muslim and they inherited the religion.
“Some cases are clear-cut, but sometimes, mixed religion marriages, illegitimate marriages, divorces and missing marriage certificates can also complicate the case.
“Not all children inherit one of their parent’s religion and the law gets quite technical and in the end, we have to abide by what the law states,” he said.
He cited the case of 53-year-old widow Intim binti Lambatan from the Dusun Banggi community of Pulau Banggi, the northernmost island of Sabah whose case was highlighted by an online news portal.
“She came here asking to change her religious status, complaining that we had wrongly listed her as Muslim when she showed us her baptism certificate from SIB,” Adrian recounted.
But he said a check of her records revealed that her parents were Muslim and she was born one, even though she may not have been a practising Muslim.
“But she is legally Muslim according to our laws. The burden falls on the applicant to prove to us that that she isn’t a Muslim.”
In such cases, Adrian said the department required an order from the Shariah courts before it will amend the applicant’s religious status.
In Sabah, the process for Muslims to amend their religious status is arduous and those attempting to do so also risk being accused of attempted apostasy and detenting for up to 36 months in Islamic rehabilitation centres.
However, there have been many cases of Muslim converts who converted back to their previous religions after their marriage break-ups.
In his statement Thursday, Dusing said the wrong classification of Christians as Muslims in their MyKads has caused many issues including preventing them from getting married legally, which in turn prevented the registration of the birth of their children, as well as the children’s registration in schools and applications for their own identity cards.
Adrian offered to scrutinise all the cases raised by the SIB.
“If they are not satisfied with the process, each one of the 162 cases can come here and we can discuss each one personally and dig out their records.”