Malaysians Wait for Court Ruling on Conversion

August 13, 2006

Source: The Scotsman

On August 13, 2006 The Scotsman reported, "Malaysia is expecting a court ruling any day now that could shake society to its foundations: does a Muslim have the right to convert to another faith? A Muslim by birth, Lina Joy decided to become a Christian, marry and raise a family. But in Malaysia, where Islam is the official religion, this is an affair of state, not conscience. The 42-year-old has asked the Federal Court, the country's highest civil judicial authority, to acknowledge her decision to convert to Christianity and is now awaiting a verdict. Whatever the outcome, the decision could pose a headache for a government that is trying to meet the demands of the majority Muslim population and the sizeable minority of non-Muslims... It's a tricky legal question in multiracial, multi-religious Malaysia. Ethnic Malays, who make up just over half of Malaysia's 26 million people, are deemed Muslims from birth... Constitutionally, freedom of religion is guaranteed. But in reality, conversion out of Islam comes under the ambit of sharia or Islamic courts. And under sharia law, renouncing the Islamic faith is punishable by fines or jail. It isn't an option."