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ICC Note: A forum on religious freedom in Malaysia was met with strong Muslim resistance. Currently, Muslims cannot officially renounce Islam and could be jailed for converting to another faith. Although Malaysia ’s constitution includes an article on religious freedom, the option to convert from Islam needs to be included.

Malaysia Islamists protest religious-freedom forum

Reuters (7/25/06) – A Malaysian forum on freedom of religion drew an angry protest by Muslims on Saturday, revealing a sharp divide in this mainly Muslim nation over the issue of renouncing Islam.

Malaysia ‘s constitution enshrines freedom of religion but Muslims cannot officially renounce Islam. Those who convert to another faith can be jailed by a local Islamic court.

About 300 protesters, including members of opposition Islamist party PAS, rallied in the southern city of Johor Baru , local news Web site Malaysiakini said.

Surrounded by riot police, they gathered outside a hotel where a group known as Article 11, named after the constitutional provision on freedom of religion, held the latest in a series of forums on the issue, Malaysiakini said.

“Cancel it! Cancel it! Allahu akhbar! (God is great),” protesters chanted. “Down with the infidels! Don’t meddle with Islam!”

The forum went ahead, Malaysiakini said, but in May a similar forum had been disrupted in the northwest state of Penang after a noisy protest by Islamists.

Malaysia is a relatively modern and relaxed Muslim country but its treatment of those who have given up the Muslim faith has ignited a heated debate. Malaysia is a secular state and about 40 percent of its population is non-Muslim…[Go To Full Story]