Lawyer: Non-Muslims can appear in Syariah court

Lawyer: Non-Muslims can appear in Syariah court
The Syariah Court on the third floor of the Family Link@Lengkok Bahru building in Malaysia.

IPOH - A non-Muslim can be present at a Syariah court if he or she has been named a party in a suit, a counsel for a Muslim convert has contended.

Asmuni Awi, who acted for Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah, the Muslim convert husband of M. Indira Gandhi, stressed that non-Muslims could ap­p­ear in court to defend themselves.

"If they can't appear in a Syariah court, the (Syariah) judge would have struck out the the person's name the moment they were named.

"There's no clear-cut rule stating that non-Muslims can't appear in the (Syariah) court," he pointed out, adding that the court allowed non-Muslims to appear before it to seek redress.

Asmuni was rebutting a submission by Philip Koh, counsel for the Malaysia Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism, in the High Court here yesterday that non-Muslims cannot attend the Syariah court as they did not come under its purview.

Asmuni was of the view that both civil and syariah courts had equal power and right to interpret the law.

"It's not right for a civil court to decide whether a Syariah court can make a judgment or not.

It is also clear that the civil court cannot interfere with the Syariah court," he contended.

Mohd Ridzuan, formerly K. Patmanathan, is seeking to throw out a contempt action filed by Indira Gandhi to compel him to return their youngest child Prasana Diksa, five, to her.

In his submissions, Koh also said that Article 3 of the Federal Constitution stipulated that while Islam was the religion of the federation, other religions may be practised in peace and harmony.

"The provision making Islam the religion of the federation is however intended to be innocuous, not to cause hardship or harm to anyone,'' he added.

Koh's co-counsel Lim Heng Seng said issues pertaining to civil marriages should be heard by the civil court.

"While a converting spouse may exercise his right to seek remedies in a Syariah court, such orders as he may have obtained therein are of no effect,'' he stated.

Judicial Commissioner Lee Swee Seng fixed May 30 for decision.

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