ICC Note: Morning Star News reports a Christian lawyer who has applied to practice in Malaysian sharia courts has been denied her appeal before the country’s highest court. Victoria Jayaseele studied sharia law and became academically qualified to practice, and she desired to represent converts from Islam who desired to change their religion. In Malaysia, all citizens are born with Islamic identity, so the process of converting to Christianity and other faiths involves a hearing before a sharia court and forced Islamic re-education. Malaysian law creates an internal contradiction where the constitution protects religious freedom, but allows such sharia courts to suppress conversions.
3/28/16 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Morning Star News) – Victoria Jayaseele Martin yesterday lost her appeal to represent clients in Malaysia’s sharia (Islamic law) courts. Why would a Christian lawyer want to practice in an Islamic court?
In Malaysia all ethnic Malays are Muslim, according to the constitution. Because of a number of affirmative action privileges for Malays, any ethnic Malay who leaves Islam is declared non-Malay (Article 160 of the Federal Constitution). If Malays wish to change their religion, they must go to a sharia court first. These courts specify a period of “re-education” for such petitioners and then reject their requests to leave Islam.
All lawyers who practice in sharia courts in Malaysia are Muslims, while in nearby Singapore and other countries, non-Muslims are allowed to practice in sharia courts. In Malaysia, non-Muslims and those desiring to leave Islam are faced with the problem of being represented by Muslims.
In order to help, Martin studied at the International Islamic University and received a Diploma in Sharia Law, as well as a Master’s in Comparative Law. She applied to practice in the sharia court in Kuala Lumpur. She was turned down because she was not a Muslim.