Another convert in bid to renounce Islam

Civil servant Faizal Wong Abdullah, 54, wants to renounce Islam - which he embraced on the persuasion of friends on Oct 6, 1999 - and return to Buddhism.

In March he took the rare step of filing, on his own accord, an application with the Kuala Lumpur Syariah High Court to renounce Islam.

As Negri Sembilan is the only state with legislation to renounce Islam, he immediately ran into a roadblock in the legal process.

In addition, the Federal Territory (FT) Islamic Council entered a preliminary objection to his application, seeking to get him to undergo counselling instead.

This is usual procedure in Malaysia. Apostasy is a serious offence in Islam and applicants are directed to undergo counselling.

Wong had told Syariah High Court judge Mohammad Abdullah that he does not want counselling.

When the matter came up for mention today, Mohammad fixed June 2 to hear a submission from the council and told Wong to appoint a lawyer.

Wong was in tears when met outside the court, saying that on his wages he cannot afford a lawyer.

“All I want is to go back to my original religion. I respect Islam and its principles but I have never been able to practise and be a good Muslim. I cannot find peace in Islam, as I was brought up to practise Buddhism,” he said.

“Please help me go back to my faith. As I have told the judge, I do not want to undergo counselling sessions. What is the use of undergoing counselling when I have made up my mind?”

Wong explained that he had embraced Islam after being influenced by friends. He then went to Malaysia Islamic Welfare Organisation in Kuala Lumpur to complete the conversion procedure.

He insisted that the conversion has only been nominal, as he has not followed it up with practice and at heart has remained a Buddhist.

“I remain unmarried. Hence, my application to renounce Islam does not affect anybody except myself,” he said.

“Since, embracing Islam, I have been sidelined by my family. My two brothers and three sisters have shunned me. I have not been able to go back to celebrate Chinese New Year and my parents have passed away since.

“Malaysia prides itself on practising freedom of religion. I just want my right to practise Buddhism. I have been practising Buddhism all this while despite being a Muslim.”

Wong said he hopes to approach MCA for assistance and support, especially in hiring a Syarie lawyer to pursue his case up to Syariah Court of Appeal - the highest in the Islamic legal system - if this becomes necessary.

'Lina Joy' revisited

Wong's predicament will bring to mind the Lina Joy case which saw a landmark decision in apostasy cases, when the Federal Court ruled that the jurisdiction for the renunciation of religion lies with the Syariah Court.

Unlike Wong, Lina took her application to the Kuala Lumpur Civil High Court, taking into account the absence of legislation in the FT Syariah jurisdiction.

Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim (right), in a majority decision, ruled that the National Registration Department (NRD), which is in charge of issuing identity cards, had the right to demand that the Syariah Court certifies Lina's conversion.

"On the question that the NRD has the right to demand a certification from the Islamic court that confirms the appellant's renunciation of Islam, my answer is that NRD has the right," the judge said.

He also said that apostasy is within the powers of Islamic law and that the Syariah Court has jurisdiction, concluding that the civil courts cannot interfere in the process.

Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum ruled that the NRD had no statutory duty to decide on apostasy.

Penang's Syariah Appeal Court had two years ago allowed Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah to return to her old religion after it ruled her conversion, due to marriage, was not valid


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