The Federal Constitution remains supreme should there be clashes with any other law, including Shariah law.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Masing was quoted as saying this by the Borneo Post Online, when commenting on the issue of apostasy involving Salina Jau Abdullah, Jenny Peter @Nur Muzdhalifah Abdullah and Tiong Choo Ting @Mohd Syafiq Abdullah – three Sarawakians who had sought to, but failed, to leave Islam.
Masing said by referring the trio’s case to the Shariah Court, the Court of Appeal in Kuching had evaded its responsibility as a civil court.
“Article 11 (1) of the Federal Constitution states that every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it. Therefore, Article 11 (1) states that there is freedom of religion in Malaysia.
“If there is a clash between the Federal Constitution and other laws, including Shariah laws, the Federal Constitution holds supreme. Thus, referring to the Shariah Court by the civil court on this issue of ‘murtad’ is evading their responsibility,” he was quoted as saying.
The trio, who were represented by lawyer Baru Bian, had sought to compel the state Islamic Department and council to issue letters of release so that they could leave Islam, and also compel the National Registration Department (NRD) to change the Muslim names on official records to their original names.
However, the Court of Appeal ruled that the question of whether they could leave Islam should be brought to the Shariah Court.
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.