Lina Joy: What is freedom of religion?

I find Nathaniel Tan’s letter to editor (Malaysiakini) useful in understanding the issue of Lina Joy. I am reproducing it here for further discussion.I have, in my hands, a few cases of Muslim converts who wish to return to their previous religion. In that sense, their cases are slightly different from Lina who has renounced Islam ( a Malay who’s born as a Muslim). In my mind, I think they should be allowed to go back to their original religion.Even for Lina Joy, I really do not see the logic and reason to force her to stay as a Muslim. It’s pointless to keep a Muslim who has changed to other faith in his or her heart. I hold the the view that Lina should proceed to Syariah Courts to seek the permission to leave Islam. But to resolve cases similar to Lina in future, the Government must reform the Islam institutions in the country so that these institutions could handle such cases professionally. We do not need the courts to decide on conversion of religion, whether it’s Islam or other religions.But I do understand the strong feelings of some of my Muslim brothers and sisters. I know exactly where they were coming from.To them, they cannot accept a Muslim to leave Islam more of the fear factor (but you may argue that their fear was unfounded)rather than holding the view that Islam is a more superior religion. Yes, I do know that there were some who hold an extreme view that certain religion is more superior than other religion. But we do not have to agree with them.

I wish to tell all my Muslim brothers and sisters that there ‘s really no point to keep a Muslim if he or she has decided to embrace another religion.

My reasons are simply these:

1. All religions share the same root. We are all children of Abraham. All religions is ONE.

2. There’s no such thing as a superior religion.

3.Other Muslims would not leave Islam just because Lina Joy was allowed to leave Islam.

4. Freedom of religion should include freedom to join and freedom to leave a particular religion.

5.Many have left Islam in the past but more have embraced Islam at the same time.

6.Like other religions, Islam is a good religion.

7. People who have left Islam without condemning it should not be seen as apostles.

8. Only people who condemn the religion (Muslim or Non-Muslim) could be considered as apostles (of Islam) and this must not be allowed in this country. No one should condemn or belittle other’s religion.

9. Malaysia, as a multi-religious society, needs freedom of religion for real harmony and peace among the peoples of different faith.

The Prime Minister’s response on the Lina Joy’s case is pathetic. He just want to wash his hands and pretend that he has got nothing to do with it. He has once again failed to carry out his duty and responsibility as the prime minister of this country.

I hope bloggers could also give their views on this important issue. Please leave your comments with Colour-blind.

BTW, DAP will be holding a forum to discuss the case on 7 June 2007 in Petaling Jaya. Watch this blog closely for further details.

Lina Joy: Let’s not leap to polemics

Nathaniel Tan
May 31, 07 2:58pm
I refer to the malaysiakini report No joy for Lina.We can expect a lot of emotional responses to the recent ruling involving Lina Joy. In navigating the understandable amount of passion surrounding this issue, it is perhaps worth ensuring that the details of this judgement are properly understood for what they are.Many are likely to say that this is the death of freedom in religion in Malaysia, because Lina Joy was denied of her right to convert. A closer look reveals a slightly more textured landscape. By way of brief chronology:

  • Lina was a Muslim who renounced Islam.
  • She went to the National Registration Department (NRD) to have the religion on her MyKad and on record changed.
  • The NRD said: ‘For us to change the religion on your MyKad, we need a certificate from the Syariah Court stating that you have indeed renounced Islam’.
  • Yesterday, the Federal Court upheld the ruling of the NRD.

It is important to realise that technically and theoretically (if nothing else), the road is still open for Lina to go to the Syariah courts, apply for recognition of her decision to renounce Islam, obtain it and live happily ever after.

Some make the argument, clearly not entirely without merit, that since Lina has renounced Islam, she should not in any way, shape or form have to submit herself to the jurisdiction of the Syariah under any circumstances as this would be subjecting a non-Muslim to Muslim laws.

Others yet (again, perhaps understandably) are extremely cynical about the chances of the Syariah courts actually granting such a controversial recognition of apostasy. The hardcore religious, after all, are likely to fear the ripple effect this may cause – a wave of mass apostasy being the biggest fear (founded or unfounded) of all.

Some might even see a political angle to this – where the ruling powers refuse to take any steps that would cost them Malay votes in a time where the non-Malay votes are swinging strongly against the government.

A ‘miracle’ decision by the Syariah court – should Lina decide to apply there – to allow her renunciation might be a relatively successful compromise. It would appease some of the more religious parties who hold the Syariah in such high esteem, and espouse its ability to dispense justice fairly to non-Muslims (as in their much touted case of Nyonya Tahir), while essentially granting Lina the fundamental right to convert.

In any case, it would be extremely mature of us to see the judgement for what it is and not be too quick to condemn it for what it is not (or what it isn’t yet). If we are to criticise it, which is our inherent right, let us be clear on what we are debating, rather than leap to polemics.

PM: Don’t be emotional over Joy decision
May 31, 07 11:31pm Malaysiakini
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today urged for an open mind and rational thinking from everyone over the recent decision in Lina Joy’s case.“If we allow ourselves to be overcome by emotion, we will begin to have all kinds of thoughts; we will have suspicions about this and that,” he was quoted as saying in Bernama.

He also said that his government had played no role or brought any influence on the decision of the Federal Court.

“That is the decision of the court; I don’t question them,” he said after chairing an Umno Supreme Council meeting today.

Yesterday, the highest court in the country ruled on a 2-1 majority to dismiss Lina’s appeal to to have the word “Islam” removed from her identity card.

Lina, 43, had claimed to have renounced Islam to embrace Christianity 17 years ago.

The court however ruled that Lina had to obtain a certificate of apostasy from the Syariah Court before the National Registration Department could drop the word “Islam” from her identity card.

Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Federal Court Judge Alauddin Mohd Sherif dismissed her appeal while Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum dissented.

No religious divide

Asked if the Federal Court decision would cause a religious divide in the country, Abdullah said: “I don’t think there is a divide although the discussion on religion becomes more widespread.”

Bernama also reported that at the press conference, Abdullah also dismissed a suggestion from a foreign journalist that Islamic law was now above the Federal Constitution in the country.

“There is no such thing (of Islamic law being above the Federal Constitution). The Federal Constitution is the Federal Constitution.

“There is a set of laws we have to follow. It is something that we have to follow, that’s all,” he said.


12 Responses to “Lina Joy: What is freedom of religion?”

  1. sampalee Says:

    Pak-dah does not only fail as a pm,he also failed as a muslim leader.[ie a leader who is muslim]As a muslim,he should treat a dhimmi[lena joy] with both LOVE and CARE.If the courts under his leadership is wrong,then he should correct them.We may one day end up with soldiers as robbers and policeman as rapist,and pak-dah will say they are trained professionals doing their job and he do not want to interfere and have not interfered.The decline in Islam is not lena joy,but muslim like pak-dah.Least he forget,we must remind him thet he will meet his maker and that is earlier than most malysians.

  2. muhibbah Says:

    It is time to appoint better personalities to become the next CJ. That’s the best the government can do, otherwise the Judiciary will continue to make Malaysia appearing in world news for wrong reasons.

    Time to to replace all Mahathir’s deadwood in the Judiciary. Malaysia needs to move on. We do not need clowns to pass comical judgements!

    We should not let a religious issue supress the Human Rights of Freedom to choose!

  3. muhibbah Says:

    Beware and not be blinded, fellow Malaysians!

    Some cheapskate UMNO politicians will take advantage of this issue to gain votes in the next GE! As usual, these cheapskates UMNO farts will borrow sensitive issues to glorify themselves.

    God, please save Malaysia from being raped by the UMNO hypocrites!

  4. Wizzerd Says:

    People who condemn religion are apostles?Do you mean atheists?

  5. V T Says:

    “We may one day end up with soldiers as robbers and policeman as rapist” – Sampalee

    We have, have you forgotten last December during flood, the rescue team demands money from the flood victim, the Sabah case where an underage refugee was raped by our policemen? in the first instance, our d-pm denies flatly…….

    It is really sad not only for Lena Joy, but a huge dissapointment for Malaysians to hear our champions of “progressive Islam” simply brushes off this issue rather than to address it like PAS, Nik Azis in this case made a comment that is fair to Lena and Malaysian, BN is bringing Malaysia back in time so that one day, we might all use camel poo as fuel for cooking rice.

    Muhibbah has made a very decent suggestion which I agree fully, this issue is best treated with care as UMNO will defintely use it to project themselves as Champion of religion and champions of Malaysian.

    Election time is so near, could happen very very soon, let’s not give these politicking morons excuses to create a senario, thereby causing chances for the oppositions.

    I myself am a Christian and do not see why one can’t follow one’s wish in this case, but plenty a time ahead to pursue this matter once the opposition breaks the 2/3 majority.

  6. V T Says:


    Atheists : One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

  7. muslim Says:

    Dear fren, i would like to draw ur attention. islam is not like we watch from tv or astro nowadays. Islam only bring one word for this world i.e ‘there is no god except Him’.Even,respecting other religions is want of the teaching in islam and i think the rest also teach the same thing to their followers. i juz want to stress here that there is a polimic between ‘islam liberal’ vs ISLAM after the ‘alien ideology’ influence the teaching. for me, we will be better in describing islam if we make more effort on it.

  8. Ahead of Time Says:

    Say Ronnie. Let’s not get overboard. A couple of comments.
    1.All religions do not share the same root. We are not all “children of Abraham” (where did you get this idea from? From Lim Guan Eng and Teresa Kok?) I suppose you also believe that the earth and the universe were created a mere 6000 years ago and that the creator muddled up all the evidence just to confuse humans? BTW all religions are not one.
    2. There may not be such thing as a superior religion but because of their diversity, only one religion can be true, the rest false.


  9. sampalee Says:

    All religions have its genesis.However all of them point to the ONE truth.It is ONLY the truth that can set us free.Remember the description is never the describe and concept of god should not be mistaken for the inconceivable GOD which is labeled differently at different times and by different community.In TRUTH time is an illusion as is the whole of creation.By partaking in the fruit of knowledge[duality],we operate in seperation of the single truth[non-dual] and repeat the ignorance of Adam while in the garden of eden.If all is ONE,that means all religions must remian one taste,the taste of the unborn[uncreated]

  10. law student Says:

    it is just an Alien ideology- ISLAM LIBERALISME. There is no such islam. Article 11 of Federal Constitution: ” Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and subject to clause 4 : to propogate itmust be read together with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the Federation under article 4, does not prohibit apostasy from Islam.
    Without citing any authorities, Faiza Judge distinguished between freedom of religion and freedom of choice, summarily concluding that article 11 referred only to the former. To his mind, the ‘right to profess and practise his religion’ did not extend to the right to change religion, contrary to international human rights standards. so the freedom of religion and freedom of choice is totally 2 different things.

  11. Top Stock investments online information blog Says:

    top stock picks

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  12. alfred ooi Says:

    to clarify all the difference in the understanding of religion, the meaning of re-li-gion what is this means?The jews bible is born before Christ Bible, The Christ bible is born before Islam, the meaning of islam is be peace be upon you, and this is say by the jews (Israel prophet) and Jesus Christ. when you project to the begining the only one man made by the GOD is Adam which meaning SOIL in Hebrew. So everybody before interpreted should dig to the source to clarified the stand.

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