Three people who sought to leave Islam had their appeal dismissed by the Court of Appeal in Kuching, Sarawak, PKR’s Baru Bian revealed.
The Sarawak Opposition leader, in a statement, said Jenny Peter @ Nur Muzdhalifah Abdullah, Tiong Choo Ting @ Mohd Syafiq Abdullah and Salina Jau Abdullah, had named the Director of the Sarawak Islamic Department, Sarawak Islamic Council and the National Registration Department (NRD) as the respondents.
The trio, who were represented by Baru, had sought to compel the Sarawak Islamic Department and council to issue letters of release so that they could leave Islam, and also compel the NRD to change the Muslim names on their official documentation to their original names.
However, the Court of Appeal ruled that the question of whether they could leave Islam should be brought to the Syariah Court.
Baru said the three-member bench, led by Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, cited the Federal Court’s decision in the Lina Joy case and the interpretation of Article 121A of the Federal Constitution.
In that case, Lina had sought to compel the NRD to change her religious status from Muslim to Christian, but the Federal Court ruled against her.
Citing the dissenting judge in the Lina Joy case, Richard Malanjum, the chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Baru said the trio were no longer practising Muslims and that their statutory declarations, and evidence of baptism were sufficient.
“In all three cases, the applicants were originally non-Muslims who had converted to Islam for marriage and had left the religion after divorce or death of their spouse.”
He added that the Syariah Court Ordinance 2001 of Sarawak did not make any mention on the issue of jurisdiction over apostasy, hence the High Court should have exercised its jurisdiction to allow the trio’s applications.
On March 24 this year, the Kuching High Court allowed Rooney Rebit, a Bidayuh who was converted to Islam as a child to renounce Islam.
The High Court ordered the NRD to change Rooney’s name to his original name and his religion from Islam to Christianity in his identity card and its records.
The department filed an appeal against the decision on April 22, but later withdrew the appeal after Prime Minister Najib Razak intervened in the matter.