Malaysian Court Allows Muslim Convert to go Back to Buddhism

May 8, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The International Herald Tribune

Wire Service: AP

A Malaysian Islamic court allowed a Muslim convert Thursday to return to her original faith of Buddhism, setting a precedent that could ease religious minorities' worries about their legal rights.

Lawyers said that the Shariah High Court's verdict in the northern state of Penang was the first time in recent memory that a convert in this Muslim-majority nation has been permitted to legally renounce Islam.

A rising number of disputes about religious conversions has created anxiety among religious minorities - predominantly Buddhist, Christian and Hindu - because in the past, courts virtually always ruled against people seeking to leave Islam.

The Shariah court in Penang, however, granted Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah's request to be declared a non-Muslim. She embraced Islam in 1998 because she wanted to marry an Iranian, but claimed she never truly practiced the religion.