Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Malaysian Convert Lina Joy Loses Appeal In High Court

In a 2-1 decision, Malaysia's Federal Court ruled today that Lina Joy, a Muslim convert to Christianity, must get permission from a Sharia court in order to have her religion changed on her identification card. The Associated Press and Reuters both report on the long-awaited decision from Malaysia's highest civil court. Writing for the majority, Judge Ahmad Fairuz upheld the refusal by the National Registration Department to change Joy's identification card. He said: "She cannot simply at her own whims enter or leave her religion. She must follow rules."

Dissenting, Judge Richard Malanjum, the only non-Muslim on the panel, said that it was unreasonable to require Joy to go to a Shariah court because she could face a fine or sentence to a rehabilitation center for apostasy by that court. He wrote: "In my view, this is tantamount to unequal treatment under the law."

Shariah courts in Malaysia have jurisdiction over civil, family, marriage and personal rights of the country's Muslims. A DPA report on the case points out that Islamic courts in each of Malaysia's 14 states have different rules. Only one state has provisions for Muslims to convert. Joy herself is in hiding with her Catholic fiance. So long as her conversion is not recognized, she can marry her fiance only if he converts to Islam. (See prior related posting.)