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ICC Note: More on the Lina Joy case in Malaysia . The thing to take away from the article is the inability of a “moderate” Muslim State to deal with tolerance of other faiths. This attitude is the norm in Islamic culture with a difference only in degree. If this is how things are in Malaysia (moderate) you can extrapolate and figure out that things are infinitely worse in Pakistan , North Africa, or the most of the Middle East .

Malaysia ‘s Islamic identity at issue

Jane Perlez The New York Times

For the Full Story, go to Intl. Herarld Trib. From the scant personal details that can be pieced together about Lina Joy, she converted from Islam to Christianity eight years ago and since then has endured extraordinary hurdles in her desire to marry the man in her life.

Her name is a household word in this majority Muslim country. But she is now in hiding after death threats from Islamic extremists, who accuse her of being an apostate.

Five years ago she started proceedings in the civil courts to seek the right to marry her Christian fiancé and have children. Because she had renounced her Muslim faith, Joy, 42, argued, Malaysia ‘s Islamic Shariah courts, which control matters like marriage, property and divorce, did not have jurisdiction over her.

In a series of decisions, the civil courts ruled against her. Then, last month, her lawyer, Benjamin Dawson, appeared before Malaysia ‘s highest court, the Court of Appeals, to argue that Joy’s conversion be considered a right protected under the constitution, not a religious matter for the Shariah courts.

Threats against Joy had become so insistent, and the passions over her conversion so inflamed, he had concluded there was no room for her and her fiancé in Malaysia . The most likely solution, he said, was for her to emigrate.

For Malaysia, which considers itself a moderate and modern Muslim country with a tolerance for its multiple religions and ethnic groups of Malays, Indians and Chinese, the case has kicked up a firestorm that goes to the very heart of who is a Malay, and what is Malaysia.

Malaysia has powerful Islamic affairs departments in its 13 states and in the capital district around Kuala Lumpur . The departments, a kind of parallel bureaucracy to the state apparatus that were strengthened during the 22-year rule of former Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, run the Shariah courts.

” Malaysia is at a crossroads,” Dawson said. “Do we go down the Islamic road, or do we maintain the secular character of the federal constitution that has been eroding in the last 10 years?”

In rulings in her case, civil courts said Malays could not renounce Islam because the constitution defined Malays to be Muslims. They also ruled that a request to change her identity card from Muslim to Christian had to be decided by the Shariah courts. There she would be considered an apostate, and if she did not repent she surely would be sentenced to several years in an Islamic center for rehabilitation.

Because of the death threats, including some calls to hunt her down, Dawson said, he could not make her available for an interview.

Similarly, her fiancé, a Christian of ethnic Indian background whom Joy met in 1990, had received death threats and was not prepared to be interviewed.