|It’s no joy for Lina. It’s also no joy for Ms Chan, no joy for Ms Wong, no joy for all Malaysians who cherish freedom of religion. My deep sympathy with Lina and all others who were affected by the sad ruling. Where can you go if you cannot get justice from the highest courts in our land?
No joy for Lina
|Lina Joy’s long wait for her conversion to Christianity to be recognised by law is over – the Federal Court ruled today that she remains a Muslim and her religious status will not be removed from her identity card.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 Malanjun gave a dissenting judgment.
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.
The three questions
Following this, Lina filed a suit against the NRD director-general, the government and the Federal Territory Religious Council in 2001.
After losing at both the High Court and Court of Appeal, the matter finally came to the Federal Court with these three questions:
1. Was the NRD entitled to require a person to produce a certificate or a declaration or an order from the syariah court before deleting “Islam” from his or her identity card;
2. Did the NRD correctly construe its powers under the National Registration Regulations 1990 when it imposed the above requirement, which is not expressly provided for in the regulations?; and
3. Was the landmark case Soon Singh vs Perkim Kedah – which held that syariah courts have the authority over the civil courts to hear cases of Muslims renouncing Islam – correctly decided?
Delivering the much-awaited judgment today, Ahmad Fairuz and Alauddin answered in the positive to all these three questions.
Richard however disagreed, stating that the NRD had no statutory duty to decide on apostasy.
Ahmad Fairuz said the NRD, which is in charge of issuing identity cards, had the right to demand that a syariah court certify Lina’s conversion.
“On the question that the National Registration Department has the right to demand a certification from the Islamic court that confirms the appellant’s renunciation of Islam, my answer is that NRD has the right,” he said.
“The appeal has been rejected with cause,” he added.
Shouts of Allahuakbar
A large section of the 300-strong crowd waiting outside recited the tahlil or read the Quran while waiting for the decision.
When the news reached them, they shouted Allahuakbar – their reaction resounded through the Palace of Justice.
Born to Malay parents, Joy, 43, whose Muslim name was Azlina Jailani, converted to Christianity in 1998.
[Full report to follow]
A sad ruling for freedom of religion in Malaysia