Court to Tackle Conversion Case

April 14, 2006

Source: The Columbian

Wire Service: AP

On April 14, 2006 the Associated Press reported, "Malaysia's highest court has agreed to take up the question whether Muslims who renounce their faith must still answer to the country's Islamic courts. The Federal Court ruling, expected in months, will be a rare step into the highly sensitive area of conversions - and will likely have profound implications on religious freedom in this Muslim-majority country. The court's announcement on Thursday stems from the case of Lina Joy, who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1998. That same year she applied to revise her government identity card, which stated that she was Muslim. The National Registration Department refused to identify her as Christian, saying it needed permission from a court specializing in Islamic law, or Shariah. 'This case should be viewed in the larger context of Islamization and the erosion of constitutional rights,' Joy's lawyer, Benjamin Dawson, said Friday. Muslims, who make up 60 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people, are governed by Shariah courts on all civil and family matters. Chinese and Indian minorities are under civil court jurisdiction. But there are no clear guidelines in overlapping cases like Joy's."