Citing religious freedom, Sarawak Opposition lawmaker Baru Bian wants the state government to amend the state Syariah Court Ordinance 2001 to enable natives who have converted to Islam to be allowed to return to their original creeds.
Baru who is also a lawyer said the amendment was necessary after the Court of Appeal dismissed this week the cases of three Muslim converts who wanted to to return to Christianity as beyond its jurisdiction.
“When a person has declared by a statutory declaration or any other legal method that he or she has converted out of Islam, the Shariah court should have no more jurisdiction over that person,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted for response to the appellate court ruling on his clients.
He argued that jurisdiction should remain with the civil courts, pursuant to Section 25(2) of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964.
“This is consistent with the guarantee of freedom of religion under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution,” he added.
The Ba’Kelalan assemblyman said he would raise the issue with Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem to table a motion at the coming Sarawak Assembly which is to sit from November 21 to 30.
Three Sarawakians: Jenny binti Peter @ Nur Muzdhalifah Abdullah, Mohd Syafiq Abdullah @ Tiong Choo Ting, and Salina Jau binti Abdullah failed earlier this week to persuade the civil appellate court to allow them to be legitimately known as Christians again.
Although a three-judge panel ruled against the trio, it also suggested a remedy may lie in the state legislature.
“Article 11 of the Federal Constitution and the additional powers of the High Court stipulated in Schedule 1 of the CJA, we opined that it must be read in the context of Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution, where it is now settled by the long line of authorities that whether a person was a Muslim or not, was a matter under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Syariah court,” said the written judgment of the case penned by Court of Appeal judge Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat who had chaired the panel.
Baru expressed great disappointment with the judgment that ruled against his clients, but saw the panel’s suggestion as a ray of hope for Muslim converts who wanted to leave the religion.
He also alluded to the recent case of another Sarawakian Muslim who succeeded in his court bid to legally change his name and be known as a Christian again ― Roneey Rebit.
“There is no difference in the legal issue between Roneey and our appeal cases here. All had declared they were no more practising Muslims. Fortunately for Roneey, his case was politically resolved as an election issue,” Baru said.
Source : The Malay Mail Online