Moderate Malaysia's Religious Freedom: Lina Joy, Thou Shan't Leave Islam
31 June, 2007
Malaysia prides itself on its policy of "Islam Hadhari", or "civilizational Islam" which claims to use Islam to develop culture in the nation, and which should be exported elsewhere. This policy of "moderate" Islam is nothing of the sort. This latest case demonstrates the Islamofascism at the heart of Malaysia's policies of "Islam Hadhari".
The legal case of Lina Joy, a convert to Christianity who wants the right to be recognised as a non-Muslim, has gone on for several years. Born 43 years ago as Azlina Jailani as a Malay, her "Mykad" identity card, automatically given to all citizens at age 12, claimed that she was a Muslim. This is the labeling given to all Malays, whom the UMNO-led government considers to be de facto "Muslim". Details of Mykads, which must be carried at all times, are stored at the National Registration Department or NRD.
26 years ago, she became a Christian. On February 2, 1997 as "Lina Joy" she applied to the NRD to have her new Christian name registered on her MyKad. On August 11, 1997, this claim was rejected. She applied again to the NRD to have her Christian name recognized, and the NRD approved having the name Lina Joy entered on her MyKad, but refused to designate her faith as Christian. It remained as "Muslim".
Article 11 of Malaysia's constitution states that anyone can follow any religion of their choosing, but in 1988, this was undermined. An amendment (1A) was made to Article 121, which stated that the civil courts have no jurisdiction over "any matter" which falls under the jurisdiction of the Islamic (or Syariah) Courts.
Lina Joy is not allowed to marry her boyfriend, an "official" Christian, as she is still "officially" a Muslim. Under Islamic law, a Muslim man can marry out of the faith, but not a woman. She took her case of registering her conversion on her MyKad to the Federal Court last August, but instead of reaching a publicly proclaimed decision, the court and the Malaysian media became silent on the issue.
Even Article 11 of the constitution, which states that a citizen can follow any religion of their choosing, contains a clause which shows that Malaysia has no concept of religious freedom. This clause states: "The law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam." In August 2006 the church which had baptized Lina Joy was subjected to a police report, for contravening this clause. The church of Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields, was reported to the authorities by a Muslim. Both Lina Joy and her boyfriend have been issued with death threats by Muslims. The Federal Court has still not come to a decision on her case. No decision was taken by the Federal Court in August, perhaps as it was too close to the nation's Merdeka or Independence Day celebrations (August 31) and the authorities did want any unpleasant aspects of their Islamofascist regime to be publicly revealed. Finally, after nine months, the three judges have voted 2 to 1 against Lina Joy's rights to officially leave Islam.
The news is carried by MalaysiaKini, Bernama, ABC News, Reuters, Asia News and the Australian.
Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Federal Judge Alauddin Mohammed Sheriff ruled against Lina Joy, and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum (a non-Muslim) ruled in her favor. The decision remains that in order to have her religious designation changed from being Muslim, she must apply to the Islamic courts. No Islamic court in Malaysia has ever allowed a living person to leave Islam.
Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim decreed: "On the question that the National Registration Department has the right to demand a certification from the Islamic court that confirms the appellant's renunciation of Islam, my answer is that NRD has the right."
Halim said apostasy came under the jurisdiction of the Shariah courts. He said: "Civil courts cannot interfere. In short, she cannot, at her own whim, simply enter or leave her religion... She must follow rules. The appeal has been rejected with cause."
Richard Malanjum, the dissenting judge said the demands of the NRD were "discriminatory and unconstitutional". He also said that by applying to an Islamic court (which has powers to rule against apostasy which is illegal in some states) the decision would lead to Ms Joy being made to "self-incriminate" herself.
On September 19, 2005, the Court of Appeal had made a similar 2-1 ruling against Lina Joy removing the word "Islam" from her Mykad. The official ruling was announced earlier today from the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya. Outside the court, a crowd of between 200 and 300 Muslims (pictured) shouted Allahu Ackbar ("God is Great") when the ruling was announced. Ms Joy did not appear at court, fearful that she would be attacked by Muslim fanatics.
America has a "Free Trade Agreement" with Malaysia, valid as of March 2006, even though the US State Department noted its abuses against religious freedom in November 18, 2005. The US is Malaysia's largest trading partner, and Malaysia is America's tenth largest business partner.
Though the US Commission on International Religious Freedom aims to identify countries which abuse rights to religious freedom, Malaysia appears neither on its list of countries of serious concern nor on its watch list. The country is not mentioned on its 2006 Annual Report.
Anyone who thinks that the United States has a duty to ensure that it trades only with countries that allow human and religious rights, can write to the State Department, or should contact the US Commission on International Religious Freedom:
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
800 N. Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 790
Washington, D.C. 20002
Phone: (202) 523-3240
Fax: (202) 523-5020
Adrian Morgan is a
British based writer and artist who regularly contributes in
Family Security Matters. His essays also appear in
Spero News and