Malaysian court says conversion from Islam is illegal

By October 6, 2005

Malaysia (MNN) — The superior court of Malaysia has dealt a blow to religious freedom in that nation.

According to Voice of the Martyrs, Canada, a superior court in Malaysia upheld an earlier judgment that Malay people cannot renounce Islam. The country of Malaysia consists of four main ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese, Indians and tribal peoples. According to the Malaysian constitution, “A Malay citizen is a person who professes Islam.” This means that the approximately 15,000 Malay Christians retain the official status of a Muslim, regardless of their religions beliefs.

In 1998, Azalina Jailani converted to Christianity and changed her name to Lina Joy. She went to court to force the National Registration Department to change her religious status from Islam to Christian so that she could be married in a civil ceremony to her Christian husband. Her request was rejected; two of the three judges on the panel ruled that she could only change her status with the permission of Muslim religious authorities. The third judge, a Hindu, held that she had the right to renounce Islam without permission, since the Malaysian constitution guarantees the freedom of religion.

Pray for Lina and the other Malay Christians living in a state of constitutional limbo. Pray for them as they experience social rejection and legal discrimination. Pray also that this ruling will not stop others from turning to Christ.

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