Banggarma is a Muslim, declares High Court

By Athi Shankar, Free Malaysia Today

GEORGE TOWN: The High Court here today ruled that a 28-year-old ‘Hindu’ mother of two is a Muslim. In delivering his 40-minute oral judgment, Judicial Commissioner Yaakob Sam said S Banggarma should refer her case to the Syariah Court to resolve any disputes arising from her ‘conversion’ to Islam.

Yaakob said that documents produced by the four defendants were sufficient to prove that Banggarma was a Muslim.

“Based on the documents produced by the relevant authorities in the court, I’m satisfied that the plaintiff is a Muslim.

“So her case should be referred to the Syariah Court,” he said.

Outside the court room, Banggarma, whose Muslim name is Siti Hasnah Vangarama Abdullah, instantly brushed aside the verdict as “unfair and unrealistic”.

‘I will fight till the end. I was born as a Hindu, lived as a Hindu and will die as a Hindu,” she told newsmen.

Banggarma’s lawyer Gooi Hsiao Leung said his client would file an appeal against Yaacob’s decision to the Court of Appeal in a week’s time.

“We will apply for the written judgment before filing the appeal,” he said.

Born in 1982, Banggarma resorted to the courts to declare that her forced conversion to Islam at the age of seven in 1989 was illegal. She sought a high court order for a full trial.

She named Perkim president Dr Mahathir Mohamed, Perkim officer-in-charge Raimi Abdullah, Penang Islamic Religious Affairs Council and the Penang City Kadi as defendants.

The defendants were represented by lawyer Mathias Chang, Zubaidah Tuan Muda, Abu Bakar Sidek and Mohd Ilmani Ahmad respectively.

Banggarma born a Hindu

Banggarma claimed that she was unwittingly converted by the state Islamic religious authorities while she was staying in a welfare home in Kepala Batas, Penang.

She claimed in her originating summons that the civil courts can adjudge her case since it was not a case of renunciation but one of declaring the process of conversion as null and void.

She has claimed she was converted at an age in which she could not have had the thinking capacity and competence to comprehend and undergo a religious conversion ceremony.

She said her parents could not have converted her to Islam, as alleged by the religious authorities, because her father originally put her in a Hindu orphanage centre in 1988.

Banggarma’s birth certificate revealed that she was born a Hindu on Aug 13, 1982 in Keratong, Pahang to plantation workers B Subramaniam and Latchumy Ramadu.

Gooi said his client was taken away from the orphanage by Raimi on Dec 27, 1989 and he put her under the care of Rumah Kanak-Kanak Taman Bakti in Kepala Batas.

Gooi, who was assisted by counsel K Kumaranathaviam, said Banggarma was then forcibly and unwittingly converted to Islam by Raimi the very next day.