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Malaysian court rejects woman's bid to return to Christianity

The woman converted to Islam in 1995 to marry a Muslim man whom she divorced in 2013
The High Court in Malaysia's Penang state has refused to hear a petition from a woman seeking a legal bid to renounce Islam and return to Christianity after divorcing her Muslim husband in 2013

The High Court in Malaysia's Penang state has refused to hear a petition from a woman seeking a legal bid to renounce Islam and return to Christianity after divorcing her Muslim husband in 2013. (Photo: AFP)

Published: August 04, 2023 10:47 AM GMT
Updated: August 04, 2023 11:46 AM GMT

The high court of Malaysia has rejected a 57-year-old woman’s bid to return to Christianity, saying it has no power to interfere in cases concerning the renunciation of Islam.

The Civil High Court in Penang state refused to hear a petition of the woman that seeks a judicial review to overturn an earlier decision from the Sharia Court, Malay Mail reported on Aug. 4.

The name of the woman, a mother of three, was not published to protect her privacy, the report stated.

The woman was born into a Christian family and converted to Islam for marriage in 1995.

She and her husband divorced in 2013 and she wanted to return to her original faith but the Islamic Sharia court refused her permission to do so.  

The Sharia High Court rejected her application in 2020, and the Sharia Appellate Court affirmed the decision this year.

The Sharia court is one of two separate court systems in Malaysia that has jurisdiction over all Muslims in the country.

A state’s Sharia court follows the state’s Islamic legislation related to family laws and religious observances.

Judge Quay Chew Soon of Penang High Court rejected the woman’s plea on June 26 and signed his judgment dated July 17. But it was released only recently, Malay Mail reported.

The judge said civil courts have no power to hear renunciation cases.

“The issue of conversion, be it into or out of Islam, concerns the principles of Islamic faith and creed,” he said on Aug. 2 explaining the grounds of the judgment, Free Malaysia Today reported.

“It necessitates the determination to be made by those who are truly knowledgeable and understand the religion to its depths,” he added.

The woman had sought six orders from the civil High Court, including a declaration that she is a person professing Christianity and that state Islamic laws do not apply to her, citing that Sharia court’s decisions are invalid for being inconsistent with the Federal Constitution, Malay Mail reported.

The court's decision does not mean her application for judicial review has been rejected but means the court has decided not to hear the lawsuit seeking the six court orders.

Her bid to return to Christianity faced a stumbling block after the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) filed an application at the Shariah High Court. That court asked her to first undergo 12 counseling sessions with an Ustaz (Muslim cleric) that lasted about a year.

At the Shariah High Court, the woman, a bishop from her church, and a MAIS officer testified in the proceedings on her bid to renounce Islam.

After dismissing the woman's application to renounce Islam the Shariah High Court on July 23, 2020, ordered her to attend further counselling sessions for 60 days. Her appeal against the order was dismissed by the Selangor Shariah Court of Appeal in January.

She filed the application with the civil court on April 17.

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1 Comments on this Story
JOHN MASCARENHAS
it is NONSENSICAL DECISION how a person can be held hostage by a religious court. IF ONE DOES NOT HAVE FAITH IN ONE'S RELIGION, HOW CAN A RELIGIOUS COURT FORCE THE PERSON TO REMAIN FAITHFUL TO THAT RELIGION? ARE THE MALAYSIAN MUSLIM COURTS BIGOTED OR MADE UP OF IDIOTS WHO USE RELIGION TO STAMP THEIR AUTHORITY ON THE LIVES AND FAITH OF HUMAN BEINGS??
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