July 1, 2006
Case Reopened on Lina Joy… Extracted from various sources below:
Lina Joy, a Muslim converted to Christianity in 1998, has since been seeking her constitutional right to practise the religion of her choice. According to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Lina could not register with the Registrar of Marriage as long as ‘Islam’ is on her identity card, which means she is legally a Muslim. The National Registration Department (NRD) had, in October 1999, accepted the reason given (the change of religion) and changed her original name, Azlina Jailani, to Lina Joy.
In April 23 2001, High Court Justice Datuk Faiza Tamby Chik rejected Lina Joy’s application that to drop the word ‘Islam’ on her identity card. He said that Malays could not renounce Islam because an ethnic Malay was defined by the Constitution as “a person who professes the religion of Islam,” and the jurisdiction in conversion matter lay solely in the hands of Syariah Court.
Lina is currently appealing against the 2001 High Court’s decision on the grounds that it contravened Malaysia’s constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.
Lina Joy was granted leave to apply to the Federal Court on April 13, 2006. The date of hearring is scheduled on June 28.
The appeal will be confined to three main issues (April 14, 2006, New Straits Times):
• Whether the NRD was legally entitled to require someone to produce a certificate or a declaration or an order from the Syariah Court before deleting “Islam” from an applicant’s identity card;
• Whether the NRD has correctly construed its powers under the National Registration Regulations 1990 to impose the above requirement when it is not expressly provided for in the regulations; and
• Whether the landmark case Soon Singh vs Perkim Kedah — which held that Syariah Courts have the authority over the civil courts to hear cases of Muslims renouncing their religion — was correctly decided.
Constitution provisions: Article 11:1 Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion
Article 160:2 “Malay” means a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom
No clear legal process on conversion matter
In August 2002, the Court of Appeals ruled that only the Islamic court is qualified to determine whether a Muslim has become an apostate. These rulings make conversion of Muslims nearly impossible in practice.