By BOB TEOH
As a last resort another Bumiputera Christian has gone to the Syariah High Court to determine her religious status following the National Registration Department’s (NRD) alleged refusal to rectify its error of listing her as a Muslim in her MyKad. This follows another three similar cases also before the Syariah High Court in Sabah.
Juinah binti Paulus @ Zulkifli, a Murut woman from Tenom in the western interior of Sabah, maintains she is a Christian from birth. But the Majlis Ugama Islam Negeri Sabah (Muis) shot back and insisted that her mother had embraced Islam 22 years ago in nearby Keningau, situated in Sabah’s oldest interior division in the beautiful valley between the Crocker and Trus Madi ranges.
Like many Bumiputera Christians in Sabah and Sarawak with bin or binti in their names, they are automatically classified as Muslims in their MyKad. The NRD has consistently refused to rectify this and would only do so if the Syariah Court ruled that they are indeed not Muslims. This is despite a recent Cabinet directive to resolve such disputes quickly. A main hurdle faced by such complainants is that they are not allowed to be represented by non-Muslims lawyers. This has come to be known as MyKad ‘Islamisation’ in East Malaysia.
Juinah, 29, has filed a case with the Keningau Syariah High Court last year citing the Director General of NRD in Putrajaya as respondent and the Chief Registrar of New Converts in Kota Kinabalu as second respondent.
In her sworn statement to her application, she said she has never embraced Islam at any stage of her life and this fact is known to the Chief Registrar of New Converts.
She said her Murut mother, Radong @ Norhayati binti Ampasoh, 53, is a Christian as is her father, Paulus@Zulkifli bin Rambus, 51, is also a Murut Christian. He is a subsistence farmer.
She married Matius bin Mangantig, 34, who is also a Christian of Rungus ethnicity and they have a three-year old son Carl Xavier.
Juinah said she is a full fledged member of Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sabah since 2008 and was baptized 16 years ago by Pastor Minna Berahim and Pastor Raphael Buin of SIB Church in Kuala Ungga.
She said she has suffered greatly due to the mistake made by the NRD in classifying her as a Muslim and wants an order from the court to say that she is a Christian and not a Muslim to enable her to go back to the NRD to get a new MyKad.
She also provided a statement from her ketua kampong of her village confirming that she is a Christian.
Replying on behalf of Muis, Rais bin Japar, from the prosecution division of Jabatan Hal Ehwal Agama Islam Negeri Sabah, denied all claims made by Juinah in her affidavit. He said according to records, Juinah’s mother had embraced Islam in 1980 in Keningau and is known by her Muslim name as Norhayati binti Ampasoh. But this did not say how this made Juinah a Muslim. The rest of her four siblings are not tagged as Muslims in their MyKad.
The other three cases still pending were brought by a 53 year-old widow and her two adult daughters and supported by the respective local churches. All three are from the Dusun Banggi tribe.
Intim binti Lambatan, was born in 1959 in Banggi, the northernmost island in Sabah. Her husband died 20 years ago. She was officially baptised in her church, the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) in Limbuak Darat, in Kudat on mainland Sabah seven years ago and issued a Baptism Certificate. The SIB is the biggest indigenous protestant church in Sabah. Her elder daughter, Norina binti Nuhudan,28, was baptised when she was 15 while her younger daughter, Listin Nuhudan, 22, was baptised when she was 14. Both are also SIB members.
The case has been postponed a few times. The last was due to the non-appearance of the respondents from the NRD and Jabatan Agama.
Related story: MyKad complaints by Sabah Christians missing from NRD