Saturday, June 02, 2007

Moderate Muslim Nation?

Some time back, I heard Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cite Malaysia as moderate. If she still believes her own statement, then Ms. Rice needs to study up on the situation with Lina Joy, who converted to Christianity 17 years ago and whose plight hasn't received nearly the same amount of media attention as that of Abdul Rahman.

Article from the May 31, 2007 edition of the Middle East Times, emphases mine:
The woman at the center of a religious controversy in Malaysia has accused the country's highest court of denying her fundamental rights in rejecting her bid to be legally recognized as Christian, her lawyer confirmed Thursday.

Lina Joy's comments came a day after Malaysia's Federal Court rejected her attempt to win recognition of her conversion from Islam.

Joy, 43, had sought the removal of the word "Islam" from her national identity card.

But the Federal Court, the highest secular legal body, threw out her case and said that only an Islamic Sharia tribunal could legally certify her conversion.

"I am disappointed that the Federal Court is not able to vindicate a simple but important fundamental right that exists in all persons," she said, according to her lawyer, Benjamin Dawson.

Joy was referring to the right to believe in the religion of one's choice, and the right to marry a person of one's choosing.

She cannot legally marry her Christian partner because Malaysian law requires non-Muslims to convert to Islam to wed a Muslim.

"The Federal Court has not only denied me that right but to all Malaysians who value fundamental freedoms," Joy said. "I am hoping that my case would have made a difference to the development of constitutional issues in the plight of many others."

Dawson said that he and Joy were considering their next move but the options were very limited.

He declined to reveal Joy's whereabouts, saying that she just wanted to be left alone.

While a coalition of Muslim groups welcomed the verdict, rights activists said that the court had failed to address concerns over religious freedom in the country.

A member of parliament for the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP), Teresa Kok, called for a constitutional amendment that would make explicit the civil courts' superiority over Sharia courts in all matters.

Islam is Malaysia's official religion. More than 60 percent of the nation's 27 million people are Muslim Malays.

But while the constitution defines the ethnic majority Malays as Muslims it also guarantees freedom of religion. The country's minority Chinese and Indians are mostly Buddhists, Hindus, or Christians.

Joy's appeal to the Federal Court centered on whether she must go to a Sharia court to have her renunciation recognized before authorities delete the word "Islam" from her identity card.

In his verdict, the chief justice said that the National Registration Department (NRD), in charge of issuing identity cards, had the right to demand that the Sharia court certify Joy's conversion.

But the only non-Muslim judge on the three-member judicial panel disagreed.

Judge Richard Malanjum said that the NRD's demand was "discriminatory and unconstitutional," and it was unreasonable to expect a person to "self-incriminate" herself before a Sharia court.

Renouncing the faith is one of the gravest sins in Islam.

The court's verdict comes amid mounting racial and religious tensions in multiracial Malaysia, where minority religious groups fear their rights are being undermined, even though the country is traditionally seen as moderate.
Other news articles about Lina Joy

According to ABC News,
"You can't at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another," Federal Court Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said in delivering judgment in the case, which has stirred religious tensions in the mainly Muslim nation.

He said the civil court had no jurisdiction in the case and that it should be dealt with by the country's Islamic courts.

"The issue of apostasy is related to Islamic law, so it's under the sharia court. The civil court cannot intervene."

About 200 mostly young Muslims welcomed the ruling outside the domed courthouse with shouts of "Allah-o-Akbar" (God is great)...


Malaysia's Muslim Youth Movement welcomed the ruling, which asserted the overriding jurisdiction of the Islamic or sharia courts in cases centering on a Muslim's faith....
For many Muslims throughout the world, shari'a law trumps civil law. Therein lies a serious problem with devout Muslims living in a Western nation; for them, religious law trumps civil law, not as the exception but as the rule.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, public schools are promoting activities such as "Open Tent" and encouraging students and parents to love an ideology and culture antithetical to Western civilization. Certainly, these activities do not include information as to the persecution of Lina Joy, Abdul Rahman, and thousands of others who do not submit to Islam as their faith of choice.

[Hat-tip to Mark Alexander, who recently posted a link to the article from the Middle East Times]

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posted by Always On Watch @ 6/02/2007 09:00:00 AM