DT : daren & tiff

May 30, 2007

Lina Joy loses appeal to drop “Islam” in IC

Filed under: Christian, DEETEE — delephant @ 3:26 pm

Malaysia’s best known Christian convert, Lina Joy, lost a six-year battle on Wednesday to have the word “Islam” removed from her identity card, after the country’s highest court rejected the change.

The ruling threatens to further polarize Malaysian society between non-Muslims who feel that their constitutional right to religious freedom is being eroded, and Muslims who believe that civil courts have no right to meddle in Islamic affairs.

“You can’t at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another,” Federal Court Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said in delivering judgment in the case, which has stirred religious tensions in the mainly Muslim nation.

He said the civil court had no jurisdiction in the case and that it should be dealt with by the country’s Islamic courts.

“The issue of apostasy is related to Islamic law, so it’s under the sharia court. The civil court cannot intervene.”

About 200 mostly young Muslims welcomed the ruling outside the domed courthouse with shouts of “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is great), but Christians and non-Muslim politicians were dismayed.

“I think it’s a major blow,” opposition politician Lim Kit Siang said. “It casts a large shadow on civil liberties and the constitutional rights of Malaysians.”

Malaysia’s Council of Churches was saddened.

“We still go by the possibility that the constitution allows any citizen of the country to exercise his or her right to choose a religion and practice it,” council secretary Rev. Hermen Shastri said outside the court.

“I don’t think this decision is going to stop an individual from exercising that right for whatever reason.”


 Five facts on religion and apostasy in Malaysia


– Article 11 of Malaysia’s Constitution guarantees freedom of worship but provides for bans on non-Muslims recruiting Muslims away from Islam. The constitution also defines all ethnic Malays, more than half of the population of 26 million, as Muslim.

– Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has developed his own brand of moderate Islam called Islam Hadhari or “civilization Islam”. It stresses that Islam should not be a barrier to new ideas, modern education and economic development.

– Abdullah’s predecessor, Mahathir Mohammed, had first described the country as an Islamic state on September 29, 2001, when under pressure from Islamic groups after the September 11 attacks.


– Islam, the official state religion, is followed by some 60 percent of the population, according to the 2000 census. The majority follow Sunni Islam and strains deemed “deviant” are opposed by the government.

– Buddhism is the second largest faith (19 percent), followed by Christianity (9 percent), Hinduism (6 percent) and Confucianism, Taoism and other Chinese religions (2 percent).

– Apostasy is generally considered a sin or a crime by Islamic authorities. Muslims who wish to convert from Islam face severe obstacles. Islamic courts have exclusive jurisdiction in cases of apostasy and generally send them for counseling but, if this fails, they can mete out fines or jail sentences.

– In 2000, an Islamic court sentenced four people to 3-year prison terms for apostasy.

– Leaders of the opposition Islamic Party (PAS) have said that the penalty for apostasy should be death.


– The sales assistant was born into a Muslim family but was baptized into Catholicism in 1998. She asked for the word “Islam” to be removed from her identity card, saying she wanted to enter into a non-Muslim marriage and could not set up a home and family without the change. In practice in Malaysia, Muslims can only marry other Muslims.

– A High Court judge first ruled against the 43-year-old in 2001, and reaffirmed a 1999 ruling that only Islamic courts can rule on conversions.


– Proselytizing to Muslims, while not illegal under federal law, is outlawed in most Malaysian states. Punishments for those caught trying to convert them include jail time and whippings. 

 – A 2002 ban on the Bible being published in the Malay and Iban languages was later repealed by Abdullah, who said it was over-zealous. But in April 2005 he said copies of Malay-language Bibles must have “Not for Muslims” printed on the front, and could only be distributed in churches and Christian bookshops.

* Malaysia’s tough film censorship laws vet sensitive religious material, nudity and sex. In 2004 Abdullah intervened to allow tickets for actor-director Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” to be sold to Christians, while Muslims were barred from seeing it.


From our local STAR news

Lina Joy lost her final round of appeal when the Federal Court dismissed on Wednesday her appeal against a ruling that the National Registration Department was right not to allow her to remove the word “Islam” from her identity card. 

Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Federal Court judge Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff delivered the majority decision dismissing her appeal. 

Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Richard Malanjum dissented. 

On Sept 19, 2005, the Court of Appeal decided that the NRD director-general was right in refusing her application to drop her religious status from her IC on the grounds that the Syariah Court and other Islamic religious authorities did not confirm Linas renunciation of Islam.  

Related Stories:
Crucial decision in Lina Joy case
Commission to study religious- sensitive cases
Court has yet to decide on Lina Joy’s appeal
Counsel: Islam can’t be renounced at will
The Lina Joy case: Right not infringed on
NRD has right to require apostasy order, says counsel

STAR Source   NST Source

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