The Lina Joy verdict has a vast spreading implication on matters related to apostasy and religious rights in Malaysia and may lead many other similar cases to jeopardy.
Lina Joy’s long wait for her conversion to Christianity to be recognised by law is over - the Federal Court ruled today in a majority decision that she remains a Muslim and her religious status will not be removed from her identity card (against her will).
Delivering the judgment to a packed gallery this morning in Putrajaya, Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim ruled that jurisdiction remains with the Syariah court.
The chief justice stated that he concurred with the majority decision - Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff who was the last to read his judgment agreed with Ahmad Fairuz's findings.
Justice Richard Malanjum gave a dissenting judgment.
Two of the three judges are Muslim and the other (dissenting one) is a Christian.
The case hinged on a decision by the National Registration Department not to remove the word ‘Islam’ from Lina’s MyKad. The department said it needed a syariah court order certifying her renouncement from Islam before it could make the change.
It has been a legal controversy that the civil courts are reluctant to pass judgement on cases involving apostasy or cases between a Muslim and a non-Muslim (marriage and custody).
The outcome of this case is watched closely by many civil rights groups.
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) president Meera Samanther said that the court’s decision “denied Lina Joy of her right to choose her religion, her right to choose her partner and her reproductive rights (in terms of bearing a legitimate child)”.
Meera also felt that the decision also denied Lina’s right of living in this country as Lina’s only option now in pursuing her rights to profess the religion of her choice was to leave the country. “Malaysia is not honouring the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women treaty which was ratified in 5th July 1995,” she said.
Some other reactions here.
What will be its impact on multicultural and secular democratic Malaysia?