Saturday, June 6, 2009




I refer to the statement issued by Mr. Jagir Singh, President of the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council that appears in the STAR today 09 Jamadil Akhir 1430/ 03 June 2009 at page N27.

It involved the case of one Mohan Singh who died of heart attack on 25.05.09 but his remains were not released by the Sg. Buloh Hospital as he was believed to have converted to Islam in 1992. JAIS has applied to the Syariah High Court Shah Alam to certify Mohan as Muslim. The family has on the other hand applied to the civil High Court for judicial review, and in the meantime has obtained an interim order preventing the Hospital from releasing the body to JAIS.

In commenting the scenario, Mr. Jagir Singh said that "we are of the view that a syariah court is not in a position to determine Mohan's religion as most witnesses who can vouch for his professing religion are non Muslims, whose evidence the Syariah Court has no jurisdiction. Without their evidence, there cannot be a just decision".

This statement is highly baseless, unfounded ,and purely contemptuos of the Syariah High Court.

It shows utter disrespect for a court of competent jurisdiction duly established by the Federal Constitution and recognized as such by the Federal Court.

The statement also shows a total lack of understanding and pure ignorance of the constitution and the procedural & legal system adopted by the Syariah Court.

In the first place, the issue to be determine is whether Mohan died a Muslim. Now, where else on earth one determine that except in the Syariah Court, where the Judges are very well verse with the law and issue at hand.

The apex court of the country in Azlina Jailani v. MAIWP in interptreting Article 11 of the Federal Constitution held that in determining the right to profess or convert out of Islam, one is bound by the rules and regulations pertaining to Islam. And the authority to decide so lays with the Syariah High Court, a court duly established by the Federal Constitution under Article 121 (1A) and have competent jurisdiction with the civil High Courts established under Article 121.

Secondly, it is highly misleading to say that non-muslim cannot gave evidence in the Syariah Court.

One need to refer only to the case of the late Nyonya Tahir where there's a dispute as to whether she died a Muslim. The JAINS maintain that she was a born Muslim and therefore died a Muslim and should be buried as one. The Buddhist family on the other hand claimed that she was never a practising Muslim, rather she married a Buddhist, live as a Buddhist and carry on her life as a Buddhist.

The matter was brought to the Syariah High Court of Negeri Sembilan where the Buddhist famile testified and gave evidence.

After weighing all the evidence presented before it, the Syariah High court accepted the evidence of the Buddhist (in other words the non Muslim family) and declared that Nyonya Tahir died a Buddhist and should be buried as one.

Again in the case of Siti Fatimah Tee where the Syariah High Court of Pulau Pinang heard evidence from non-muslim and declare that Fatimah Tee was never a Muslim and be allowed to retain her old religion.

I think a person of Mr Jagir's stature should be more careful before issuing statements of this nature.
It's not only contemptous, but shows a total ignorant and disrespect to an institution duly established under the Federal Constitution.

It would do great justice if people of Mr Jagir's stature to educate his community to learn to respect the Syariah Court. It will be good for the promotion of religious harmony in the country if people of Mr Jagir's stature educate his community to put their trust in the Syariah High Court and attend the trial and give evidence. And there are syariah lawyers who are willing to take up the matter as shown in the two cases above.

I agree with Mr. Jagir's statement that like any court of law, the Syariah High Court will make their decision based on evidence presented to them. But if the interested party refused to give evidence, than nothing much the Syariah High Court could do.

I do not think the matter needs government intervention. The matter has been categorically decided by the highest court of the land. i.e the Federal Court. What people like Mr. Jagir needs to do is to start learning to respect decisions of the Court even if it is not in one's favor.

And may I add a piece of advise. Please learn to respect the Federal Constitution and all the provisions and the institutions established therein. One cannot..and should not be selective and discriminative in doing so. You may not agree with the Syariah Court, but it is a court of competent jurisdiction duly established under the Constitution. It is not a Court of inferior jurisdiction, but of equal jurisdiction.

And Mr. Mohan Singh has every right under the constitution to profess and practice Islam as a religion of his choice; and it is not a crime to become a Muslim.

And the best people like Mr. Jagir should do is to learn and respect that right. You may not agree with Islam, just like I don't agree with other religion. But we can live in harmony if we start giving mutual respect to each other's right and refrain from making statements or doing things that can undermine that.

Thank you.

Yang benar

Zulkifkli Bin Noordin

No comments: