Thursday, March 29, 2007

Jurisdiction Of Malaysian Islamic Courts Debated

Malaysian courts continue to struggle with the appropriate jurisdictional reach of the country's religious Syariah courts. On Wednesday, the Syariah High Court rejected an application by a 24-year-old non-observant Muslim woman to renounce her Islamic affiliation. According to a report in today's Daily Express, the court held that it has jurisdiction to determine if an individual's actions have made the person an apostate, but it has no jurisdiction to grant conversion based only on a person's wish to change religions.

Meanwhile, earlier this month Malaysia's civil Court of Appeal held that a Hindu woman had to seek recourse through the Syariah Appeal Court to stop her estranged husband, who had converted to Islam, from dissolving their civil marriage in a Syariah court and unilaterally converting their children. Sun2Surf today reports that the president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism objected to the decision, arguing that non-Muslims should not be required to go to Syariah courts for relief.

UPDATE: The International Herald Tribune reported on Friday that Malaysia's Court of Appeal has ruled that Muhammad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah — who converted from Hinduism to Islam — cannot convert his son to Islam until after the apex Federal Court hears his estranged wife's appeal of its decision to send the case to a Syariah religious court.