Enter Lina Joy. The blog post I linked to (which is an AP article) will give you the context to who she is and what she's fighting for, but the gist is, she was born a Malay and thus a Muslim. Over the years, she converted to Christianity. She's fighting for official recognition of her change, in a country (that used to call itself secular) where while non-Muslim-to-Muslim conversion is easy and painless, the Muslim-to-non-Muslim conversion is anything but. She has suffered abuse from so-called pious Muslims, from fundamentalists. Not just her, but even those who're willing to defend her.
Well, today, after years of legal battle, the Federal Court came to a decision:
The Federal Court ruled today that she remains a Muslim and her religious status will not be removed from her identity card.
Delivering the judgment to a packed gallery this morning in Putrajaya, Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim ruled that jurisdiction remains with the Syariah court.
The link will expire soon, so here's the report for posterity:
No joy for Lina
Soon Li Tsin
May 30, 07 11:18am
Lina Joy's long wait for her conversion to Christianity to be
recognised by law is over - the Federal Court ruled today that she
remains a Muslim and her religious status will not be removed from her
Delivering the judgment to a packed gallery this morning in Putrajaya,
Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim ruled that jurisdiction
remains with the Syariah court.
The chief justice stated that he concurred with the majority decision
- Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff who was the last to read his judgment
agreed with Ahmad Fairuz's findings.
Justice Richard Malanjum gave a dissenting judgment.
The case hinged on a decision by the National Registration Department
not to remove the word 'Islam' from Lina's MyKad.
The department said it needed a syariah court order certifying her
renouncement from Islam before it could make the change.
The three questions
Following this, Lina filed a suit against the NRD director-general,
the government and the Federal Territory Religious Council in 2001.
After losing at both the High Court and Court of Appeal, the matter
finally came to the Federal Court with these three questions:
1. Was the NRD entitled to require a person to produce a certificate
or a declaration or an order from the syariah court before deleting
"Islam" from his or her identity card;
2. Did the NRD correctly construe its powers under the National
Registration Regulations 1990 when it imposed the above requirement,
which is not expressly provided for in the regulations?; and
3. Was 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 Islam – correctly decided?
Delivering the much-awaited judgment today, Ahmad Fairuz and Alauddin
answered in the positive to all these three questions.
Malanjum however disagreed, stating that the NRD had no statutory duty
to decide on apostasy.
'Civil courts can't interfere'
Ahmad Fairuz said the NRD, which is in charge of issuing identity
cards, had the right to demand that a syariah court certify Lina's
"On the question that the National Registration Department has the
right to demand a certification from the Islamic court that confirms
the appellant's renunciation of Islam, my answer is that NRD has the
right," he said.
He also said that apostasy was within the powers of the Islamic law
and the syariah courts.
"Civil courts cannot interfere," he said.
"In short, she cannot, at her own whim, simply enter or leave her
religion... She must follow rules."
"The appeal has been rejected with cause," he added.
The dissenting judge Malanjum said the NRD's demand was
"discriminatory and unconstitutional," and it was unreasonable to
expect a person to "self-incriminate" herself before a syariah court.
"In some states in Malaysia, apostasy is a criminality," he said.
Shouts of Allahuakbar
A large section of the 300-strong crowd waiting outside recited the
tahlil or read the Quran while waiting for the decision.
When the news reached them, they shouted Allahuakbar - their reaction
resounded through the Palace of Justice.
Born to Malay parents, Joy, 43, whose Muslim name was Azlina Jailani,
converted to Christianity in 1998.
Joy, fearing retaliation from Muslim groups, was not present in court.
Well, guys, chew on that for a while.