KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysia’s highest court has agreed to decide whether the country”s Islamic court has the exclusive right to deal with Muslims who renounce their faith, a lawyer said on Friday.
The Federal Court ruling, expected in months, will be a rare step into the highly sensitive area of conversions – and will likely have profound implications on cases about apostasy and religious freedom in this Muslim-majority country.
The Federal Court’s announcement on Thursday stems from the case of Lina Joy, who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1998. She applied to the National Registration Department to change her Muslim name, Azlina Jailani, on her government identity card the same year.
The NRD changed her name but refused to delete “Islam” from the card’s religion entry, saying it needed permission from a Shariah court, which handles Islamic issues.
“This case should be viewed in the larger context of Islamization and the erosion of constitutional rights,” said Joy”s lawyer, Benjamin Dawson.