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ICC Note: Morning Star News reports that on February 26, the highest court in Malaysia will hear the appeal of four Muslims-turned-Christians who desire to have their conversions legally recognized on their national IDs. Though having religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution, Muslim majority Malaysia makes it difficult for people to convert out of Islam – legally they are in limbo, sometimes even fined or imprisoned, and they often receive threats from the Muslim community.      

02/23/2018 Malaysia (Christian News Network) – On Monday (Feb. 26) the highest court in Malaysia is scheduled to hear the appeal of four people who wish to have their conversions from Islam to Christianity legally recognized.

In a country where there is no legal way to leave Islam, the four people are asking the Federal Court to have their names and their faith changed on their national identity cards.

Three of the four were raised as Christians but converted to Islam in order to marry Muslims. Jenny Peter divorced her Muslim husband in 2006 and returned to Christianity. Salina Jau was divorced by her Muslim husband in 1992, and then she returned to Christianity. Tiong Choo Ting began to practice Christianity after his Muslim wife died in 2007.

All three signed “statutory declarations” that they intended to return to Christianity. They were required to undergo “counselling” regarding their faith. No coercion is exerted in the counselling, which takes place at the state department of religion in two to five sessions running from 30 minutes to an hour. According to court records, “All appelates attended counselling sessions and remained firm in their stand to renounce Islam.”

The fourth person, Syarifah Nooraffyzza, is an ethnic Malay raised as a Muslim. According to the Malaysian Constitution, all ethnic Malays are Muslims – a principle upheld in the case of Lina Joy, who was denied her right to leave Islam in 2007 and convert to Christianity. Syarifah filed a document stating that she no longer practices Islam, and she was baptized in 2009, according to published reports. She is asking to change her identity card from Muslim to Christian and to change her name to Vanessa Elizabeth.

She as well as the other three people are “still Muslims on papers,” according to an appeals court. Because they are considered Muslims, they need to get “letters of apostasy” (the literal translation of the Malay surat murtad) from a Sharia (Islamic law) Court.

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For interviews with Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]