JOHOR BAHRU: Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar has weighed in on a recent issue involving a Malaysian Muslim woman whose wedding ceremony in India was carried out in accordance with Sikh customs.
In a statement released on Monday (Dec 21), the sultan said: "I would like to advise all parties not to draw any conclusions or act prematurely in dealing with this issue. The woman is undergoing trial by media even though she has not yet declared that she wants to leave Islam."
"If we are in a hurry in our actions to punish her, then we will build a huge barrier for her to return to our country and widen the gap between her family in Malaysia and her life in India," he added.
While the sultan did not identify the woman in question, he is believed to be referring to Ms Illi Najwa Saddique, who was the subject of criticism recently after photos of her wedding ceremony in Punjab, to India's hockey captain Manpreet Singh Pawar, were circulated on social media.
Netizens questioned her religious status because the ceremony was not done in accordance with Muslim customs.
There were also questions on how she was allowed to travel to India during the Movement Control Order (MCO) amid COVID-19 border restrictions, and whether she relied on her political connections.
She is the niece of National Unity Minister Halimah Mohamed Sadique, a United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) lawmaker for the Kota Tinggi constituency in Johor.
The sultan added on Monday that he has ordered the Johor Islamic Religious Department to check on the woman's religious status through her family members and Malaysia's embassy in India.
He explained that as she comes from Johor, and in his role as the head of Islam in the state, he wants to ensure that the lives of Johor residents will be protected by the provisions of the law where Islam is the "the pillar of our state life".
In his statement, the Johor ruler also advised "the woman" to ensure that the decision she makes is approved by her parents, and does not "violate the norms set by Islam".
"I am confident that the Johor Islamic Religious Department and the Johor Mufti Department will provide all necessary assistance to the woman to maintain her faith within the scope of Islamic law," he said.
"Whatever news we receive related to the relationship among Muslims should be examined without prejudice. We need to be open-minded and think positive," he added.
Malaysian media reported on Monday that the federal government is still waiting for a complete report from the Johor Islamic Religious Department.
“We will only know the full story after we hear it from the woman herself,” Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Ahmad Marzuk Shaary reportedly said.
“From the information we have received so far, the woman concerned is still a Muslim and there has been no application from her to change her religious status," he added.
Local media also reported a statement, purportedly written by Ms Illi Najwa and released by Mdm Halimah's aide. In the statement, Ms Illi Najwa maintained that she has never changed religion and remains a Muslim.
She reportedly also apologised for her "ignorance" and explained that she and her husband had gotten married through an Islamic nikah ceremony in December 2019.