Muslim citizens cannot convert to other faiths without consent of a Shariah court, Malaysia’s top court ruled on Feb. 27.
The ruling, read out amid a heavy police presence outside the courthouse in Kuching, Sarawak state, was made after four Muslims in that state appealed to the civil court to nullify their status as Muslims as they had embraced Christianity.
The four — one born a Muslim and three earlier converts to Islam — wanted the court to order the government to release them from Islam and change their status to Christian on their identity cards.
Under Malaysian law, “Islam” is printed below the picture of the holder on the identity card, also known as a MyKad. This is to aid the enforcement of Shariah, which is only applicable to Muslims.
After the verdict, Joshua Baru, son of Baru Bian, the lead advocate for the four, said that while it was “not the decision we hoped for however now the deadlock or limbo is broken” on the issue of apostasy.
“The court ruled that though it agreed that the state’s Islamic courts did not have any provision for conversion in or out, the jurisdiction for conversion out could be implied,” he said.
“The decision seems to suggest a double standard of the jurisdiction of the civil courts and the interpretation of [the federal constitution].”
He was referring to a decision by the same court in January this year that declared that Shariah court powers are limited and the civil court is the final arbitrator in matters even if they concern Muslims.
Read more at UCA News.