Federal Court should have referred to Malaysia Agreement on apostasy case, say Sarawak churches


Source: The Malaysian Insight

THE Federal Court should have referred to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and the constitution before pushing the conversion cases to the shariah court, the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) said.

ACS chairman Reverend Justin Wan said the Federal Court should not have interfered because the state is independent as far as MA63 is concern.

“Islam is the official religion of Malaysia but Sabah and Sarawak are free to exercise our religious beliefs. It is one of the points of the 18-point agreement.  

“So as far as Sarawak is concerned this issue should not be decided by the Federal Court.

“All this while the civil court had said they (shariah court) have no jurisdiction on apostasy cases, and now the Federal Court says they have.

“We leave today’s decision to the court, but we still feel that it is not a wise decision. It’s not right in the context of Sarawak,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Wan was responding to the Federal Court’s unanimous decision today to dismiss the appeals of four Muslims to have their applications to apostate be heard in the civil high court.

The apex court ruled that the Sarawak shariah court had jurisdiction to hear their apostasy applications.

Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, in his ruling in Kuching, said even though there was no provision in the shariah court, there was a section in the Majlis Islam Sarawak Ordinance 2001 that could be used to hear apostasy cases.

Wan also advised church members to keep calm after the decision and not make any unnecessary and unwanted comments on social media.

“As Christians and law abiding citizens we have to abide by the court of law and submit to the rules of the country,” he said.

Shariah Lawyers Association of Malaysia president Musa Awang said that all parties must accept the decision with an open and objective mind, and use it as a way to unite various religions and nations.

“This case should serve as a lesson to the states which have not provided the provision for a declaration that a person is no longer a Muslim, as the same provisions provided in the Enactment of Administration of The Religion of Islam or Shariah Court Enactment or Ordinance, in other states.

“This judgement also certifies that the shariah court has jurisdiction to hear apostasy applications, which is to determine if a person who embraces Islam or was born in Islam is still a Muslim or no longer a Muslim,” he said.

Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) president R.S. Mohan said that either the Federal Court or the shariah courts should decide on the status of Muslim converts.

“A conclusion must be reached on whether a convert can come out of Islam,” he said.

Mohan said that there were cases where they (shariah courts) have given a letter (to come out of Islam) to converts.

“They can consider the applications by the converts. The shariah and civil courts cannot say they don’t have the jurisdiction to decide on such cases.

“If they (converts) want to go back to their families, then the courts must consider their case,” he said.

Mohan said he encountered a similar issue 10 years ago where an Indian man converted his four children.

“We wrote to the Jabatan Agama Islam and they said that they have no jurisdiction and told us to go to the shariah court.

“When we went to the shariah court they also said they have no jurisdiction.

“This family’s case remains unresolved till today,” he said. – February 27, 2018.


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