GEORGE TOWN, June 12 ― The Penang Shariah Court declared Teoh Cheng Cheng a non-Muslim today after finding discrepancies in her conversion documents and hearing testimonies that the woman was born and raised a Buddhist.
Upon delivering his decision, Shariah Court judge Zaim Md Yudin ordered the state’s religious affairs department (Jaipp) to return Teoh's body to her family and allow them to proceed with the woman’s Buddhist-style funeral.
“After listening to testimonies yesterday, the court finds that the deceased was born and brought up as a Buddhist and she was not a Muslim when she died,” he said in his ruling.
He also ordered the police to assist in returning Teoh's body to her family.
In his 20-minute judgement, Zaim listed out testimonies heard yesterday as his grounds, including documents of Teoh’s conversion that Jaipp furnished, which showed discrepancies in the dates and signatures.
“The deceased's eldest daughter, who is 17 years old, told the court that from the day she was born up till her mother's death, her mother had practiced Buddhism and even taught her the Buddhist way of prayers,” he said.
The Islamic court had heard testimonies from witnesses in a closed-door session yesterday, including a representative from the Penang Islamic Council (Maipp) and Teoh's family.
Zaim said Teoh's family had also furnished documents including a sales and purchase agreement for a house, in which Teoh's Chinese name and not her alleged Muslim name, Nora Teoh Abdullah, was used.
He said the testimonies from the deceased’s daughter and close family friend had attested to the fact that Teoh had at all times practised Buddhism.
“They also supplied pictures of her home where there were Buddhist altars, which she prayed at and also pictures of her celebrating Chinese New Year,” he said.
He noted the irregularities in her conversion documents, in particular one that was dated just 10 days after she delivered her first child, which did not seem logical.
The family’s counsel Wan Faridulhadi Mohd Yusoff said once the court issues the written court order of the decision, the Teoh family will use it to collect her body from the mortuary today, with police assistance.
According to Wan Faridulhadi, Maipp has indicated that it does not intend to appeal today’s decision.
“This decision also means all her children’s religious status are also non-Muslims,” he added.
Jaipp interrupted Teoh’s funeral on Monday and told her family that the deceased was a Muslim convert so she had to be buried the Muslim way.
They took her body to the mortuary for Muslim funeral rites to be performed so that she could be buried in a Muslim cemetery.
Due to the dispute over her religious status, Teoh was not buried yet and her body is still at the mortuary.
She died on early Saturday morning when she hung herself at her home in Macallum Street after a quarrel with her live-in Muslim boyfriend.