Malaysia court allows Muslim convert to revert to Buddhism

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Singapore, May 9 (UNI) A Malaysian Syariah High Court has allowed an application by Muslim convert to revert to Buddhism, a major landmark move following increasing disquiet among non-Muslim Malaysians, Kuala Lumpur media reported today.

The decision by Perlis Syariah Court chief judge Othman Ibrahim allowed Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah, 39, to renounce Islam and revert to her original faith Buddhism.

It is a first of its kind ruling in the country where a living Muslim convert is allowed to renounce Islam since the Syariah Court Civil Procedure (State of Penang) Enactment 2004 came into force on Jan 1, 2006, said the reports.

''From the evidence, it is clear that the plaintiff had not practised the teachings of Islam and had maintained her Buddhist faith,'' said Mr Othman in the northern Peninsular Malaysian city of Penang.

''Although this court views seriously such matters, this court has no choice but to give her the right to return to her original faith,'' added Mr Othman, declaring Siti Fatimah no longer a Muslim.

He also ordered the defendant, the state Islamic Religious Council, to cancel her certificate of conversion to Islam.

However, the Syariah Judge did not grant her application to change the religious status on her identity card from Muslim to Buddhist, saying that it did not come under the court's jurisdiction and she had to pursue the matter with the National Registration Department.

Siti Fatimah, whose Chinese name is Tan Ean Huang, filed the application in May 2006, saying in her affidavit that she converted to Islam in July 1998 for the sake of marrying an Iranian named Ferdoun Ashanian in 1999 but had not practised its teachings.

''My husband loved me very much and I converted to marry him so that I could follow him back to Iran,'' the Star newspaper quoted her as saying.

But she said Ferdoun left her a few months after their marriage and she had no knowledge of his whereabouts.

Siti Fatimah had maintained her Buddhist leanings and prayed to deities.

Othman also ruled that Ferdoun, as the person who brought Siti Fatimah into Islam, had failed to guide her in her new faith.

A growing number of Malaysian converts are seeking to revert to their original religions, according to the reports.

UNI XC RJ KP1058

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