A 36-year-old man whose marriage was registered under civil law and solemnised according to Buddhist rites, is suing his wife who converted to Islam, for acting on a syariah court order to allegedly snatch their child.
In his suit filed at the Penang High Court on Nov 24, Tan Cheow Hong also claimed that his wife, Fong Mee Hui (@ Fatimah Fong binti Abdullah), had wrongfully served on him a copy of a summons from the Lower Syariah Court of Hulu Langat, Selangor, based on an application for divorce filed.
The suit was filed by Tan's lawyer Gooi Hsiao Leung.
Tan claimed that the incident occurred on Nov 8 when Fong showed up at their seven-year-old daughter's school in Butterworth, accompanied by the police and Islamic Affairs Department officials, to take away their child.
The child, who was raised as a Buddhist, had been living under Tan’s care since Fong left their home in October 2007, he said.
He claimed that Fong, without any prior notice, went to the child’s school, where the principal and teachers tried to prevent her from taking the child away and immediately notified Tan.
Tan said he rushed to the school and was served a copy of an ex parte court order from the Shah Alam Syariah High Court obtained by Fong, granting her interim custody of their daughter.
He said he was shocked to learn that Fong had converted to Islam on Aug 13, and that she had filed for divorce proceedings in the lower syariah court. He was then served a copy of the summons and required to appear at the syariah court on Dec 13, Tan added.
The child had by then been placed in a Islamic Affairs Council van, he claimed.
"The police threatened to arrest me and others present if we refused to move the cars and unlock the school gates," he said.
Claiming that Fong, the Islamic Affairs Council and the police had abused their power and unlawfully executed the ex parte syariah court order and that the syariah court has no jurisdiction over non-Muslims and non-Muslim marriages, Tan is seeking a declaration from the high court for an appropriate legal forum to hear and dissolve their marriage which was solemnised and registered under civil law, without regard to Fong’s move to dissolve the marriage through the syariah court.
He is also seeking a declaration that the conversion of their child to Islam without his knowledge and approval violates Section 117 of the Selangor Islamic Administration Enactment 2003, and breaches Fong’s obligations and Tan’s rights under Section 5 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961.
Tan is also seeking other relief deemed appropriate by the court.
The case is scheduled for first hearing on Dec 10.
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