GEORGETOWN, June 12, 2014 – The Shariah High Court has declared that Teoh Cheng Cheng, whose body was taken from her family during her funeral on Monday, is not a Muslim. Judge Zaim Md Yudin said today her body is to be returned immediately to her family for burial. He said in his 20-minute judgment that the parties taking care of the body were to hand over the remains. He also ordered police to give their cooperation on the matter. Present at the court were lawyer Wan Faridulhadi Mohd Yusoff, who represented Teoh’s daughter Medelyn, and members of her family. Zaim said based on the evidence presented to the court by Penang Islamic Council (Maipp) officers, the council could not prove that Teoh had converted and became a Muslim.
The council had filed an application yesterday to seek a declaration on Teoh’s religious status. Zaim said the council showed documents with three different dates that raised questions. The council presented a logbook that showed that Teoh had allegedly gone to the Penang Islamic Department (JHEAIPP) to convert on November 14, 1997. Zaim said it was unlikely for a woman to do that 10 days after giving birth to her eldest child Medelyn on November 4. He said it was also found that her application documents to convert to Islam was dated December 6 that year, but the declaration letter she allegedly signed was dated December 16. He also said the religious officer who converted her did not sign her forms and Teoh herself never signed the Islamic registration card.
Zaim said the religious authorities also agreed that Teoh had not attended any religious classes after her alleged conversion. He said Teoh’s close friend Yazman Ayob, 37, who was a witness in the case, said he was not present on the three dates mentioned in the documents. He said Yazman took her to JHEAIPP to be converted in early 1997 when they intended to marry. “He filled in the forms for her because she was not fluent in Malay. At that time, she was not ready to embrace Islam. “The close friend also disputed Teoh’s signatures on the exhibits presented by religious authorities as he said she signed in Chinese characters,” he said.
Yazman had showed the court a sample of Teoh’s signature in a document she signed when they were buying a home together. Zaim said Yazman and Medelyn also told the court how Teoh had lived as a Buddhist until she died. Photographs of their home also showed that Teoh kept a Buddhist altar, he said. “The daughter told the court that her mother practised Buddhism and even taught her how to pray. “All her practices do not reflect that of a Muslim’s” he said. Speaking to reporters later, Wan Faridulhadi said Maipp’s lawyer informed him that they would not appeal the court’s decision.
Wan Faridulhadi said the court’s ruling means that the religious status of Teoh’s four children is also non-Muslim. Lawyer Ramkarpal Singh Deo, who represented Teoh’s mother Tan Mah Suan, said the shariah court order to the religious authorities to release Teoh’s remains had been issued. He said the civil suit filed by Teoh’s mother this morning at the High Court to declare her a Buddhist and to get her remains back stands until Teoh’s remains have been cremated. Teoh, who died on Saturday from hanging after an argument with her boyfriend, was to have been cremated on Monday according to Taoist rites. But her funeral was interrupted by JHEAIPP officers who, after obtaining her family’s consent, took her remains to the Penang mortuary pending the next course of action.