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A Muslim can renounce his faith, but only as set out by Sharia

6/1/07 Malaysia (AsiaNews) – Malaysia ’s Chief Justice explains while upholding the Federal Courts ruling on the Lina Joy case, the Christian convert forced to face an Islamic court judgement. The Premier Badawi excludes that political pressure influenced judges, but admits the governments need to deal with the issue of non Muslim citizens and Islamic Courts.

“A Muslim can renounce his faith but the way one leaves a religion is set by the religion itself, in this case Sharia law”. Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, has stepped into the heated debate which has arisen in the aftermath of the Federal Court ruling on the Lina Joy case. May 30th, two of three judges, rejected the Christian convert’s appeal, to have the National registrar cancel the word “Islam” from her documents, given she is no longer a Muslim. The countries highest court has referred the decision to the Islamic Court, whom the Registrar is asking to, declare the woman an apostate in order to modify her documents. In fact two legislations exist in the country: Islamic and constitutional, which are often conflicting. In the case of Lina Joy this is evident: the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion; Islamic law punishes conversion to another religion.

Now more than ever the religious minorities in Malaysia feel threatened and denounce the imposition of the Sharia even in the case of non Muslim citizens.

As reported in the daily newspaper The Star, the Chief Justice strongly supported Federal Court verdict explaining: “To say that she is not under the jurisdiction of the Sharia Court – because she no longer professes Islam – is not appropriate, (in so far as) the way one leaves a religion is set by the religion itself”. He said a mere statutory declaration that one has renounced Islam is not sufficient to remove the word “Islam” from a Muslim person’s identity card, “This is because apostasy is an issue dealing with Islamic laws”.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi today clarified that “no political pressure influenced the Federal Court Judges’ decision, while admitting that the issue of non Muslims and Islamic courts needed to be dealt with, but exclusively by the government. The Christian community has longed appealed to the authorities to reaffirm the supremacy of the Constitution over Islamic laws.