KOTA KINABALU, June 29 — The Shariah court here today granted a Christian woman’s application today for a declaration that she was not Muslim, after a five-year legal and administrative process.
Ervinna Chua Soo Kea @ Ervinna Abdullah’s application was granted by Shariah High Court judge Nawawi Diman, who was satisfied that she did not fall within the meaning of “Orang Islam” under the state Sabah Islamic Council Enactment 2004.
“The judge ruled that the plaintiff, who grew up in a Christian family but whose father later converted to Islam, never practised or lived a Muslim life,” said her counsel Hamid Ismail.
“The judge in the case allowed the application after saying that Chua had followed her mother’s religion and there was no evidence that Chua’s Muslim father, when he was living with her prior to the divorce, had raised her as a Muslim by teaching her performing solat, fasting or others, therefore never practised a Muslim’s life throughout her life,” he said.
Ervinna filed the application to allow her to apply for a MyKad that did not declare her a Muslim after complications arose with the National Registration Department that asked her to clarify her status when they noticed her father’s religion.
This is believed to be the second case in the state where the Shariah court here corrected a non-Muslim’s religious status as “Islam” in his or her MyKad by the National Registration Department.
“The first was in 2014 involving a Buddhist man whose father converted to Muslim when he was just nine years old. The court also recognised that the man had never practiced Islam and had a Buddhist lifestyle,” he said.
According to Hamid, Chua, now 40, was born to Christian parents but her father converted to Islam in March 1977 when she was nine months old, without bringing her mother or her on the same course. Her parents later divorced when she was five years old, and she stayed with her mother and grandmother who were non-Muslim.
She later married a Christian man.
“However, she lost her IC in 2008, and the National Registration Department issued her a temporary identity document in which her religion status was clearly stated as Christian. But when she tried to renew the document, NRD staff requested that she check her religious status with Sabah Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JHEAINS) because her father’s name was Abdullah.
According to the facts of the case, JHEAINS confirmed that Chua’s name was not listed as a Muslim and issued a new temporary identity document with the religious status as “Tiada Maklumat”.
“In 2009, she filed application in the Shariah High Court seeking a declaration that she was a non Muslim, but unfortunately, the application was dismissed on 12th August 2009 and the Shariah High Court declared that she was a Muslim based on her father’s religion,” said Hamid.
Chua filed a new application through a lawyer on August 18, 2011 after the first application was dismissed, and she was asked to file a new application seeking the same declaratory relief.
The court dismissed the application on the grounds that the order dated August 12, 2009 was still effective and the plaintiff should have appealed against it.
Chua then appealed to the Shariah Court of Appeal and on December 2, 2014, the appeal was allowed. The Shariah Court of Appeal finally ordered that the application be tried before a different judge and the order dated 12th August 2009 be set aside.
The trial commenced on March 29 this year, and saw Chua’s father, as the first witness, testifying that Chua was never converted to and at all times taken care by her non Muslim mother and grandmother.
With the judgment, the court will issue a new order that will allow her to get a MyKad without the “Islam” status.
“She is very relieved and happy that the case is resolved after such a long process. She says she is happy that she can finally get her MyKad with the right religious status,” said Hamid.
It was reported that Sabah Christian groups have been unhappy in the past with the NRD for “converting” non Muslims into Islam via their MyKad status. The NRD requires a declaration from the Islamic authorities to change the statuses and other complications arise from family histories.
In Malaysia, apostasy from Islam is not allowed.