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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Of Religion And Choice

Of Religion And Choice

It may be wise to pause for breath before rushing out to celebrate the decision of the Penang syariah court in the Siti Fatimah case. Though welcome, not least for the fact that it allows Siti Fatimah to carry on with her life, we must ask ourselves whether it really sets the required precedent that the issue of apostasy requires.

I do not think it does.

The first difficulty I have with the decision is its basis in law. The syariah court has jurisdiction only over persons professing the religion of Islam. Siti Fatimah claimed, and still claims, that she was not such a person and that she converted only for the purpose of marriage. Let us say for purposes of argument that at the time of her conversion, and in the period she wished to remain married, she was for all purposes a Muslim. It is apparent that at some point prior to her petitioning the syariah court, she ceased being one and was, as such, no longer a person professing the religion of Islam.

How then did the court assume jurisdiction?

This brings me to the second difficulty. There are two distinct polar views concerning the issue of renunciation. At one end, there is what I call the pro-choice view that allows every person, without qualification, a freedom to determine of their own right their choice of religion. The Federal Constitution guarantees this choice in Article 11 which vests the freedom in ‘every person’. At the other extreme, there is the view that the choice of leaving Islam is one that can only be exercised through, and as such by, the syariah court. I call this the pro-regulation view.

It is apparent that the pro-regulation view renders illusory the right to choice of religion. For persons who happen in law (as opposed to ‘in fact’) to be a Muslim, the decision of which religion to profess is no longer theirs. If they wished to leave Islam they would have to go on bended knee to the syariah court, uncertain that the syariah court would ultimately agree with their petition. In the legal fiction perpetuated by those who espouse the pro-regulation view, a group that includes those judges of the Federal Court who formed the majority in Lina Joy, a person is a Muslim until such time as that person is declared a non-Muslim. It does not matter that the person may not in fact profess Islam any longer. Though an incredible perspective, it has nonetheless informed constitutional jurisprudence as of late and entrenched a mind-set that has resulted in grave injustice to persons unfortunate enough to have had to confront the issue.

It is on this precarious premise that the syariah court of Penang assumed jurisdiction over a person it ultimately declared as being not a Muslim. Our celebrating of the decision would as such be a celebration of a wrongful seizing of jurisdiction and wielding of power by a court not empowered to do so in law. It would also be, where Muslims are concerned, a commending of the vesting of the right to choose in a third party agency, leaving in tatters the fundamental liberty so painstakingly provided for in the Constitution.

Regardless of the convenience of the Siti Fatimah decision, it cannot be a good thing. Media reports suggest that the Penang syariah court was swayed by Siti Fatimah not having been given proper advice about Islam by her former husband and the Islamic authorities. This means that the court could take a different view of those who were born into the faith, such as Lina Joy, or those who made a decision to embrace Islam after due consideration. The court would after all be at liberty to do so if it were vested with a discretion.

I am concerned that the decision may distract from meaningful and coherent efforts aimed at ensuring a just and constitutional solution to the issue of apostasy. We should not lose sight of the fact that before a grossly misconceived decision of the Supreme Court handed down in 1999 (Soon Singh), Muslims were not required to obtain an exit-order from the syariah courts. They left the faith, declaring the fact by deed poll and carried on with their lives in relative privacy. The public face of Islam was left unscarred and the religion was not made a victim in a way that it has been of late.

(Malay Mail; 13th May 2008)


Ahmad said...

the article you wrote was amazing. you highlighted some key points. but what i want to know is that what would the syariah court do if the person is born as a muslim but some years later he/she stops practising and wants to leave the faith? (similar to the Lina Joy case).

so even if the court denied the petition to leave the religion. ultimately it is up to the person, he/she is denied so technically still a muslim but do not believe or practise the faith. all i can think about is that will be cause major problems in the future as people realise that they have a choice.

Letting the time pass me by said...

Everytime there is a legal issue, it just confused me further. Is it just how people interpret the law or the law itself is really a subjective issue? With regards to the Fatimah Tan issue, I am more confused since the lawyer is a Muslim lawyer and it is being trial at the Syariah court and from waht I understand the verdict goes to Fatimah Tan declaring her as non-Muslim.

Is the Syariah court who supposed to protect people from "Murtad" is granting a Murtad status? Or is it just a matter of making ends meet for some?

Anonymous said...

The problem starts with a group of people taking over the role of God. They decide who can and who cannot leave the religion, who should be punished for leaving the religion, etc. instead of God. By right, the whole apostasy issue is between the person and God to the exclusion of everyone else. It is without a doubt that the image of Islam has been tarnished by these religious zealots.

The other problem that is related to your issue is atheists. Just because he/she is a born Muslim, does not mean that he/she automatically believes in the religion. Some have been atheists for years and Syariah Court has no jurisdiction over them as they have never been a Muslim for a long time.

It would be wise to go back to the old days when people have the freedom to choose and also the registration dept. should stop issuing IDs with the word Islam for all with a Malay/Muslim name. Not all want to have the word Islam on their IDs. Since they don't do it for non Muslims, why should they do it for Muslims only.

Old Fart said...

I have a problem with "The syariah court has jurisdiction only over persons professing the religion of Islam".

"Professing" here stands and is used as a verb. It does not relate to any noun, like a certificate issued proclaiming you to be a Muslim.

It refers to something that is acted on currently and is ongoing. It does not refer to a past or any acts of the past.

Is there a checklist of what needs to happen for one to be "professing the religion of Islam"?

It will seem like this is one test that the Shariah courts fail to conduct before even indulging themselves into the case. Indeed, I would suggest that this is a test that ought to be conducted neutrally, before the Sharia Courts are assigned the case in the first instance.

At least in this instance, it would seem like the Sharia courts would be seen to be butting into other people's affairs where they don't even belong.

Old Fart said...

On my earlier post about what constitutes "professing the faith" I would suggest that if indeed the Sharia Courts feel they have jurisdiction, then they have failed in the first instance in ensuring whosoever they presume to be of the faith that they indeed "profess" the faith. Thus in Lina Joy's case, obviously she was "of the faith". But she stopped professing the faith and now professess another. That being the case, obviously they cannot now claim jurisdiction over her legal position vis-a-vis the Registration Department.

Abdullah AR said...

I think there basis of Siti Fatimah's application, that she was not a Muslim to begin with is flawed. It is almost unanimous that the only requirement for a person to become a Muslim is the declaration that he believes that Allah is the only God and Muhhammad is the messenger of God. From the little that I gathered from the mass media, I assume Siti Fatimah made this declaration. Whether she really believed in what she declared at the time she made the declaration is not for us to guess.

I am also not aware of any authority from the primary Islamic sources of law that states that a person is a Muslim until declared otherwise by the court, Syariah court or otherwise. Instead, there are many hadith concerning acts and omissions that may cause one to become an unbeliever. Based on these hadith, affirming a statutory declaration or a deed poll that one is no longer a Muslim would certainly amount to apostasy.

I do not subscribe to what seems to me to be the popular view: that the syariah court and the apostate’s lawyer actually enabled the apostasy or caused the apostasy or allowed the apostasy. As the apostate would certainly have declared in her application either by way of a pre-signed document the statutory declaration for example or in the application itself that she had left Islam, there will be nothing much else for the court to decide. The function of the court would then merely to declare that the applicant become a murtad. The court or the lawyer could not be accused of facilitating the apostasy. The court merely declared the Muslim status of that person.

Based on the interview with Siti Fatimah’s lawyer that I watched, I think the reason the application was made on the basis that she was never a Muslim to begin has something to do with the uneasiness that the court or the lawyer would enable the apostasy. I do not think they did even if the application was made on the basis that Siti Fatimah had been a Muslim at some point.

I think there are merits from the defenders of Islam point of view in the Shariah Court not being too hesitant about declaring an apostate an apostate. There are merits in knowing who are Muslims and who had become murtad. In our Muslim society, on some occasions and for some purposes, many would still like to know whether the other person is a Muslim or not. I do not think that pretending someone is still a brother Muslim when in fact he is not will do any good to Islam. For this purpose, a declaration by the Shariah Court would help. If someone chooses to leave the faith, declaring the fact by deed poll and carry on with their lives in relative privacy, they risk (or may take the advantage of) being treated as a Muslim in public.

Then, we have the problem of the Shariah Court not having jurisdiction over non-Muslims. In cases where the non-Muslims submit to the jurisdiction of the Shariah Court by making the application, this should not be an issue. However, where a person comes before a Shariah Court, surely the Shariah Court could make a determination as a preliminary point as to whether a person is a Muslim or not. If that person is not a Muslim because he had committed apostasy, there is nothing more the Shariah Court could do but the declaration had been made.

There are merits in having the Shariah Court as the forum determining whether a person is a Muslim or not. They have the expertise. A civil court, due to their lack of knowledge, may declare a person who consumes pork and drinks beer a non-Muslim. As the Federal Constitution do not confer jurisdiction over Muslims to the Shariah Court, it is for the constitutional experts to sit down and resolve this. May be a way around it is for the Majlis Agama or Jabatan Agama or the Syariah AG (is there such an office?) to apply for the declaration to court whenever someone submits the statutory declaration to them that the person had become an apostate.

But will you say the Majlis Agama or the Jabatan Agama has no religion and therefore not a Muslim and therefore the Shariah Court has no jurisdiction over them as well? aarrghhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Good point there me basically though it is just a matter of choice..professing a religion is not that simple..its not like changing shirts that u can do as n when u like is something deeper..Imtiaz here is still delusional..mid life crisis i think..not sure which religion is i think better syariah court give a declaration to what religion this imtiaz is professing..

Anonymous said...

I'm totally blanked. How on earth do a person need an "authority" to tell a person that he is or must he of which faith. Who knows better other than the person himself / herself what he believes. Not a psychologist, a judge, not even his / her own parent.

Malaysians are not robot and please don't try to make us one. What may be good for you may not be good for me, please don't force onto me. This is the basic human tenet

Truly mindless people creates unwarranted problems.

Donplaypuks® said...

Dear Imtiaz

The point you make is a fine one. That if a person being a 'Muslim' is in doubt, then does the Syariah have any jurisdiction over the issue in determining one's religious status at all.

The Syariah will, true to form, argue that the Constitution confers upon them that sole right.

But, I see this decision belonging to the 'One Swallow does not make a Summer' class.

Tan was given a reprieve based on the fact that she claimed she had never practiced Islam, and had only wanted to convert to facilitate marriage to a (Muslim)foreigner who now has gone AWOL.

But, will the Syariah show the same degree of compassion to a Malaysian Muslim who wants to comvert out because he/she wants to marry a Christian or who is jaded with Islam and wants to convert to Hinduism?

I agree with you that it is incredible that our Constitution should define a Malay's ethnicity by his religion. But here, it is clearly up to the Malays to make a stand. If they are happy with it, should non-Malays make an issue of it?

Lastly, I also find it incredible that prior to the decision in Soon Singh, no Syariah dispensation was required in M'sia for a Muslim to convert out!! Where and how did we go wrong?

This clearly reveals the damage done to our judiciary by Maha Firaun. He has made it an art form for less qualified judges to leap frog their more experienced colleagues up the promotion ladder.

What we have now are unbelievably less exposed and qualified Civil Law judges who see themselves as defenders (the last bastions) of Islam. So, we get peculiar decisions as in the Lina Joy case.

It is time to insist that the composition of our Judiciary should better reflect the various peoples, and to that extent, recruitment at all levels into the civil service, police,legal service,army, navy, air-force etc should follow suit immediately.

Donplaypuks® said...

Dear Anonymous

There is no need to get personal with Imtiaz or question his faith in Islam. I think people like Imtiaz have a far better understanding of Islam than most, and do not need to wear it on their sleeves!

It is typical of people like you that when challenged by logic, you retort with someone as being 'delusional, middle age syndrome..' etc. Your pronouncements have no substance, no application of a thinking mind or logic. Your education was wasted.

For 75% of the world,leaving their religion IS a simple matter of renounciation. This is based on the simple dictum that an unwilling or jaded follower is a danger to himself and his religion.

Therefore, you are in the minority in the modern world and have ALWAYS been so!

The M'sian Constitution's defination of Malay ethnicity by religion has no parallels anywhere else in this world, and therefore sticks out like a sore thumb.

Please respond with logical comments or not at all.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but my gut feeling is that the syariah court decision had been stage managed, the aim being to let converts believe that the syariah is just and decides on the merits of each case.The govt wants to discourage and prevent converts or apostates from exercising their right not to be judged under syariah as they are NOT Muslims. Once converts or apostates are lulled into the false sense of security, they will be surprized as the syariah can still use other criteria to decide against them. In this context I think the Siti Fatimah case is just a ruse or sandiwara. The govt is prepared to let Siti Fatimah go as a small price to trap all those numerous similar cases and prevent them from leaving Islam, all because of politics and nothing else, because the govt cannot afford Muslims to leave Islam where a reduction in their numbers would weaken UMNO's (and also PAS') hold political power. And I fully agree that the govt should stop putting "Islam" into the Mykads of Malays to further divide this already divisive multi-racial society. No point for the govt to keep apostates in Islam if they no longer believe in the religion

Anonymous said...

I have the utmost respect for Malik. I always look forward to reading hig article. Unfortunately, he does not write often. This article said what exactly I wanted to say. It is totally unacceptable for an individual to have to go to court to justify why he/she wish to change his religion. Remember cases of individual being sent to 'Religion Rehab Center'... It gives Islam an extremely BAD image. BTW, I am an Agnostic.

flygoon said...

I am fully agree with Mr Malik Imtiaz Sawar on this article and he has my utmost respect too. For seldom we'll come across a Muslim who truly believe in upholding the most basic and fundamental human right in words, deeds, and actions.

For those who labeled him a Traitor to Islam, I have this to ask them to ponder on themselves: "How could a Muslim be traitorous to Islam when all that he does was upholding justice and fight against injustices and persecutions?"

In my opinion, Mr. Malik Imtiaz Sawar has put human first and all those zealots religious institutions second. He fights for those persecuted by a system set up by extremists that curtailed the basic human rights of choosing religion. So before you jump the gun on Mr. Malik Imtiaz Sawar, ask yourself this: Is the "murtad" a human being? Does he or she has right? Or is it your believes that it's better that these "murtad"s be put to death just to protect the good name of Islam as stated in Hadith and Quran?

meesh said...

I think the most important thing here is to understand that you are who you are in your chosen profession first, and you may let your religious beliefs guide your life, but not to let it take over. Imtiaz, to me represent a cross section of Muslims in this country who seem to live by the tenets of justice and respect for all human beings. Unfortunately, there are judges and lawyers out there who are self-serving, and totally disrespectful to their trade, and completely unbiased. A case about Lina Joy, or any other convert is something they think reflects their standing as Muslims. Brownie points in heaven? I think not. In a profession like journalism or law, or in the army, your job and your commitment to justice, to protect and to defend, and to speak the truth comes way before anything else. Personally, you can ask God to guide you... but it is what is it. If you think you are going to be influenced personally, by your own convictions, then stay the hell away from these institutions. Do not let another person suffer, simply because, you have your own issues with religion and God. It is not about you.

meesh said...

I meant "completely biased," in my last posting.

On that note, I think this was an interesting comment:

"It would be wise to go back to the old days when people have the freedom to choose and also the registration dept. should stop issuing IDs with the word Islam for all with a Malay/Muslim name. Not all want to have the word Islam on their IDs. Since they don't do it for non Muslims, why should they do it for Muslims only."

I dont think Muslims in Malaysia, most of them at least, really realise that they seem to be the "losing" party here on the double standards practiced between Muslims and non-Muslims. I am Catholic, if I decide to convert tomorrow, no one sits and tells me what I can or cannot do, least of all in a Court of Law!

It is written nowhere, that I cannot be who or what I want to be. I do not have to worry every time I go off and buy the lotto (God forbid I win, who will collect my winnings?!), or am in a room in a male alone, or carry my sijil kahwin with me, or get caught drinking in public, or subject myself to all these various invasions of personal privacy.

In fact, I think it is mentioned in the Quran, that one's privacy is of the utmost importance and is to be respected, no?

Which makes me wonder if Muslims in Malaysia, save the ones commenting on this thread realise what a biased deal they are getting. I am thought by my religion to abstain from certain things, and yes, it would be good if I didn't convert out. But, if and when I do, nothing happens really. Legally at least. It is ultimately, my issue with God. Which is the way it should be.

Which is clearly not the case in Malaysia. I understand that apostasy is a big deal. But in this day and age, all these societal controls, restrictions and downright abuse of the system to further push a very narrow agenda is so worrying. It is the loss of rights as an individual, and when an individual loses their rights, what does it say about the society that individual resides in?

The idea of moral guardianship annoys me. It might not annoy the rest of the population, but this is also why majoritarianism is abhorrent. Malaysia as we know is a big believer in it, and allows for no different views. Difference is viewed as dangerous, see the JI guys languishing in Kamunting. See the turning down of Shiite professors due to their beliefs, or even the banning of any other Muslim groups that are not Sunni. Islam is a world religion, it doesn't exist as a monolith, it constantly evolves like anything else with time and different cultures. Why would anyone allow it to be politicized and used as a tool for repression/oppression is beyond me?

This is why, the conversion issue is important to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and like anything else that plagues our society, be it the marginalisation of the natives, or Indians, or Malays, it should bother us, as no one exists in some pseudo reality or a tiny microcosm of our own making.

Anonymous said...

my comment rejected? did i say anything wrong?? please let's have an open discussion and let me know what is wrong...? Is it because it is against your own beliefs?

Anonymous said...

Letter to MalaysiaAktif

It is a question of due process not about freedom of choice

I read Malik Imtiaz Sarwar’s column, Disquiet in the Malay Mail yesterday (May 13, 2008) with some concern.

While his wish for the rights of anyone to declare themselves apostate may seem reasonable on the surface of it, the way that he wants it done is certainly worrying.

His argument that the Syariah court in Penang lacks jurisdiction over the apostasy of Siti Fatimah because she ‘never professed the religion of Islam’.

According to Malik she converted ‘only for the purpose of marriage’.

I am working on the assumption that we can only detect the outward manifestation of intention through the actions of people

And we have to work on this basis because not many of us can actually dive into the hearts of man to read their true intentions.

When Siti Fatimah converted into Islam we have to assume that she is sincere in adopting the faith because it is impossible for us to know for sure why anyone does anything.

I cannot say why Malik wrote his column for May 13. Is he truly concerned about Islam or is he just trying to score publicity points?

As a Muslim I will assume that he is truly concerned about the faith but since I see a big gap in his logic I would like to point it out to him.

Since Siti Fatimah officially converted to Islam, she is considered a Muslim until otherwise determined, therefore the Penang Syariah Court has jurisdiction over her until he has been officially declared apostate.

I will work through my logic in small steps. Bear in mind that what I am concerned about is both Islam and our respect for due process.

The rule is such that if you want to declare yourself apostate, the Syariah court will have to verify and accept it. Otherwise the system will collapse. Imagine someone caught in close proximity with a woman declaring himself apostate. Does that mean the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court is instantly dropped at that point.

As a point of fact, once you declare yourself apostate then you are one so by that definition the person can now escape the punishment under Syariah laws.

Once the officers leave he can then recite the Shahadah and again enter into Islam.

That would make a mockery of the system wouldn’t it?

I know that Malik may well suggest that someone’s faith in Islam can probably be determined by their actions. Did Fatimah pray? Did she leave all or most of the things that Islam prohibited? Did she attend prayers at the mosque or continued to go to the temple or church? You can continue with this line of questioning of course.

The problem is, many Muslism themselves would fail the test because there are many who do not pray, drink alcohol, indulge in pre and extra marital sex, gamble and do many other things that are probibited by Islam.

This is why we have to rely on the simplicity of due process. We have to accept the fact that we cannot read the hearts of man, not even the Prophet can read the hearts of man unless with God’s permission, only God can read the hearts of man at will.

It would be wrong to assume that she was insincere in conversion, now that she admits to her insincerity, the syariah court can determine that she has left the faith. It is within their jurisdiction because she has not been officially declared apostate.

Perhaps as a civil rights lawyer, Malik needs to put up an image of someone who thinks that anything ‘official’ is bad, I understand that but if we do not follow the process it would be pointless to have the Syariah system alongside the civil system.

Perhaps Malik wants those wishing to convert to undergo a process where officials would try their best to scare them away from Islam because it is a religion that is hard to escape from, at least officially. Is it better to make it harder for people to enter Islam or is it better for us to work out a better process when someone wants to officially leave the faith?

These are questions that must be answered by the learned and the wise and at some point in our past it has been answered; Be extra sure they want to enter Islam because apostasy is a serious matter and we do not want people to take it lightly.

I will explain.

If you listen to stories of those wanting to convert into Islam, you will know that it is difficult to get into the faith through official channels.

Potential converts must go through months of intensive religious learning and they are repeatedly asked if they are sure that Islam is their choice.

They are taught to read the Quran and perform prayers and make do’a and other religious knowledge that many born-Muslims are not equipped with or failed to learn along the way.

We do make sure that they really want to be Muslims before conversion so we also want to be doubly sure that they really want to leave the faith on their own free will, not under duress or coercion. That is why the Syariah court is particular about apostasy.

I understand that along the way the system may have become too rigid but it has to do with faith and the general reluctance of Muslims to see a brother or sister leave Islam. If Malik feels that specific tests or sets of criteria must be satisfied before someone can be declared apostate (as a method of releasing the judge from the feeling of guilt of allowing someone to leave Islam) then that is what he should fight for.

To say that the Penang Syariah Court has no jurisdiction over someone who has officially converted into Islam is irresponsible and shows incredible bias, it is as if, in Malik’s eyes, the entire syariah legal system is lacking in credibility and ability to conduct the affairs of the religion.

The answer to your question” How did the court assume jurisdiction?

The court assumed jurisdiction over Fatimah the through her official declaration of conversion into Islam and this jurisdiction will remain with the court until the court releases her through an official declaration of apostasy, which they did recently.

It is a question of due process and has nothing to do with pro-choice or pro-regulation.

You went on to question the current process.

Well you know that the matter was decided by the Supreme Court.

Now you may think yourself more worthy, more knowledgeable and eminently more wise than those sitting on the bench deciding in 1999 and you are free to have that opinion of yourself but the fact is, the matter was decided in the highest court of the land and we live by the rule of judicial precedence.

I understand that you may not like the rule, but the fact is, as things stand, the Syariah court has jurisdiction over everyone born Muslim and everyone who converts into Islam until they are officially declared apostate.

I am afraid counsel has misdirected himself on this subject.


Kuala Lumpur

May 14, 2008


Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said...


sorry, could you re-post the comment you left. I seem to have missed it.

Khalil Jaafar,

you and I must agree to disagree. I would also urge you to read the article again, your characterization of what I wrote is not accurate and is unfair. The syariah court found Siti Fatimah not to have been a muslim, that she had converted only for marriage. And as for due process, consider how the issue of renunciation was approached prior to the decision of the Supreme Court in Soon Singh. The Constitution does not provide for exit procedures, this was fashioned by the Supreme Court in its said decision.


Anonymous said...

Dear Malik,
again I would like to point out your argument,
that it was the Syariah Court that found her to be a non Muslim and had converted only for the sake of marriage and accepted her denunciation of Islam,

someone has to decide whether she has actually denounced the faith I believe the Syariah court has jurisdiction over all Muslism until they have been formally released.

Apostasy cannot be a unilateral proclamation, at least not in law,

Consider this, you want to change your name because the registering officer who took it down at birth made a mistake and your father forgot to check it before he left the registration office.
What do you do?
You have to get someone to approve it right?

That's just your name, you can do whatever you want with your name, but in law it cannot be a unilateral proclamation, the law must recognise it,

inikan pula pasal religion, nanti nak kira nikah kawin macamana, anak pinak punya inheritance punya cerita belum masuk lagi.

Yes faith is a personal matter but it has implications beyond just the hart, it has legal implications so the court should decide.

This is why I think Soon Singh is a correct decision.

I suppose it is fortunate for the purposes of my argument that my opinion is in agreement with a Supreme Court decision.

Judicial precedence still rules Malik, I understand that your fight is to change that ruling while so I suppose we have to agree to disagree

My bone is that I think you ran roughshod over due process and judicial precedence just to make your point

Petra said...

If I may. The topic of one's choice of faith IS a serious one -- one hardly declares one's belief or lack of believe in God without a lot of soul searching. Shouldn't we then respect such decisions, both in and outside the courts? The remark "religion is serious, you can't just convert in and out" seems to be bandied around too often without substantial examination of what it means.

Anonymous said...

Dear Khalil Jafar

Just to clarify my experience of converting into Islam.

I uttered a few words in Arabic (which I believe to be from the Koran and which I do not understand till this day) and hey presto !!! I am a Muslim. Never had to attend any course etc, etc, etc.

I have the utmost respect for Islam and all other religion but I believe the the people in this country are too immature to realise that religion is personal choice.