DT : daren & tiff

June 28, 2006


Filed under: Christian, DEETEE, News — delephant @ 8:02 am

It will be interesting to see the end result of the Malaysia Federal Court ruling ….

Read the news article in the “More Section”


Malaysia’s converts test freedom of faith

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Five days after she declared legally that she had converted from Islam to Christianity, several officers from Malaysia’s state Islamic department turned up at the woman’s office and arrested her.

She said they took her, then 21, to a drug rehabilitation center for men, where a Muslim teacher counseled her on her conversion and on one occasion, caned her back. After two months, she found an unlocked door out of the compound and escaped.

“What they did was wrong. They shouldn’t decide our beliefs for us,” said the woman — who asked not to be named — of her ordeal in 1999.

While Malaysia is one of the world’s most modern and relaxed Muslim countries, its treatment of apostates, primarily those who have given up the Muslim faith, has ignited a heated debate.

Malaysia’s Federal Court could rule in the next few days on whether Islamic courts — which have authority over the country’s Muslims, accounting for more than 60 percent of the population — have the sole right to judge apostates.

The ruling comes amid calls for capital punishment for apostasy, and follows a spate of civil suits by Malaysians seeking official recognition of their decision to leave Islam.

Half of Malaysia’s 26 million people are ethnic Malays, who by law must be Muslim, while its Chinese and Indian minorities include Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs.

Islamic law is selectively enforced by local officials in each of Malaysia’s 13 federal states. Unmarried Muslim couples caught in hotel rooms can be charged, while believers seen eating in the daytime during the fasting month of Ramadan can be fined.

Kelantan state, run by an Islamist party, has separate-sex supermarket queues, but the national capital, Kuala Lumpur, is more relaxed with plenty of dance clubs where men and women mingle openly. Yet many say Malaysia’s secular status is being eroded.

In December, Islamic authorities gave Malaysian mountain-climber M. Moorthy a Muslim burial against the wishes of his Hindu widow.

Officials said he had converted to Islam before his death, despite assertions to the contrary by most of his family.

“Apostasy is not a new phenomenon but the issue has come to the forefront because it underscores the growing Islamization of a country that was intended to be secular,” civil activist Haris Mohamed Ibrahim told Reuters.

Officials also destroyed a commune last July, arresting members of the Sky Kingdom cult which preached a synthesis of all religions and had a giant two-story teapot on its premises. The government said the cult practiced a “deviant” form of Islam.


Malaysia’s civil courts have said they cannot recognize conversions from Islam and refer apostates to the Islamic courts, where sentences for various offenses range from caning to jail.

Although such sentences are rarely carried out on apostates, Malaysians who leave Islam can find themselves in a legal limbo, unable to register their new religious affiliation or to marry non-Muslims. Many keep quiet about their choice or move abroad.

Rights activists say such barriers to conversion are at odds with Malaysia’s status as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and violate the nation’s constitutional guarantee of freedom of worship.

Neighboring Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population, has no official sanctions against such converts and recognizes civil marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims.

“Unfortunately, some people have fixed ideas about Islam and see apostasy as a challenge to the religion,” said Norhayati Kaprawi of the Muslim women’s group Sisters in Islam.

Some groups, including the opposition party Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), want apostasy to be punishable by death. One government cleric said about 250,000 Malaysians had left Islam.

The Koran forbids Muslims to abandon their faith, but it doesn’t specify the penalties, said Sohirin Solihin, professor of Koranic studies at Malaysia’s International Islamic University.

But traditional writings, or Hadith, associated with the Prophet Mohammad proscribe death.

“The Koran is clear that there is no compulsion of religion but the issue of religious freedom is different for Muslims and non-Muslims. The Muslim understanding of this is different from the Western one,” he said.

Earlier this year, the case of an Afghan man who faced the death penalty after he converted to Christianity sparked an international outcry. He was later granted asylum in Italy.

While efforts to make apostasy a crime punishable by death in Malaysia are unlikely to succeed given the government’s multiethnic coalition of Malay, Chinese and Indian parties, many fear that obstacles to religious conversion will stay in place.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for religious affairs, Abdullah Md Zin, declined to comment. His spokesman referred questions to the government’s Department of Islamic Development where officials declined comment.

But the department’s Web site recommends isolating and counseling apostates and then jailing them if they fail to repent.

“If the person remains an apostate, it is left to the respective authorities to impose the fitting sentence that is death,” the department said in its Malay-language “Frequently Asked Questions” section.

(Additional reporting by Mohaini Ibrahim)


1 Comment »

  1. Additional News
    23 June, 2006


    Prayer campaign for Lina Joy, the law does not allow her to convert to Christianity

    National Registration Department and Court of Appeal refused to accept her conversion. Federal Court is set to rule next week on her case.

    Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Malaysia’s Churches are committed one and all to a prayer campaign on behalf of Lina Joy, a Malay woman who converted to Christianity from Islam. Next Monday Malaysia’s federal Court will rule whether the law recognises her conversion or not.

    After becoming Christian in 1998, Lina Joy (formerly Azlina Jailani) applied first to the National Registration Department (NRD) and then the Court of Appeal to change her identity papers to remove ‘Islam’ as her religion. She was refused in both cases because as an ethnic Malay she was legally Muslim and “could not change religion”.

    Religious issues involving Malays, including conversions to other religions, fall under the jurisdiction of Islamic courts and not the country’s general laws.

    Lina Joy’s problem is that if she is not recognised as Christian she can only marry a Muslim man in a Muslim ceremony and will be subject to Islamic family and inheritance laws.

    Her case has opened up the debate as to the extent to which religious freedom is guaranteed in Malaysia, a country that is also home to Chinese and Indian groups who generally belong to other religions.

    De facto, two legal systems coexist in the country: one based on Islam; the other, on the constitution. And the two are often in conflict. Lina Joy’s case illustrates this clearly. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion; Islamic law prohibits conversion to any other religion.

    Given the seriousness of the situation, Mgr Paul Tan Chee Ing, Catholic bishop of Melata-Johor and chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, is appealing to Christians to support Lina Joy through prayers.

    In a prepared prayer, the prelate asks the faithful to call on God to support Lina Joy, whatever the judges’ verdict may be, and grant the judges the wisdom they need to pass judgement in the case and Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi the strength to “uphold the Constitution”.

    Comment by delephant — June 28, 2006 @ 12:10 pm

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