Friday, May 9, 2008
Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah - not the end yet
The Syariah High Court in Penang may have allowed the application by Muslim convert Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah to renounce Islam and revert to her original faith but that's not the end of her problems. Or the problems of others in the same situation. The court did not grant her application to change the religious status on her IC 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. Let's hope the NRD would be kind to her. Unlike the civil courts, Syariah Courts are not bound by the principle of judicial precedents. The Syariah court judges exercise their own judicial findings. The Penang Syariah Court's decision maybe unprecedented but other states may not necessarily follow suit. For that matter, the next case that comes up in Penang, the judge is not bound to make a similar decision. The concept of precedent is for the purpose of consistency which is normally followed, unless the facts and circumstances being tried are different. But lawyers and court reporters have told me that the gates have not been opened. The Penang decision is a victory for the freedom of religion but don't jump for joy too fast.