April 14, 2006
Joy. And then some.
The issue of religious conversion in Malaysia is basically this.
If you are a Muslim who has decided to convert to any other religion, it is ridiculously difficult for you to obtain permission to alter the official status of your religion on any document. Reason being, affairs of Islam fall under the jurisdiction of the Syariah court. The simple and logical argument, however, is that if you are no longer a Muslim, the Syariah laws ought to hold no authority over you any longer. Instead, this should be a matter of decision from the civil courts.
Of course, theory is seldom well translated, much less implemented, into logical terms in such situations. Academics and legal individuals have belaboured this issue for many years, and only recently have we begun to see the light of some sort of direction.
Lina Joy's case was heard in court, and some background info from Malaysiakini:
Joy – whose Muslim name was Azlina Jailani – converted to Christianity in 1998 and is married to a Christian individual. She had successfully applied in 1998 to change her name but failed to have the entry ‘Islam’ deleted from her identity card.
and the Sun article has this to say:
The Federal Court will now hear and decide which court – Syariah or civil – will have jurisdiction to decide on the religion of a Muslim who renounces Islam as his or her religion and seek to rectify the status on his or her identity card with the NRD.
Cyrus Das, her lawyer, thinks that:
The court must once and for all decide whether a government department can impose a regulation in the absence of a written law authorising it.
Let's get a move on it!
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