“Malaysia: Court denies woman’s appeal to leave Islam,” from Compass Direct News, August 15:
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, August 15 (Compass Direct News) — A civil court on Aug. 5 denied a woman’s appeal to renounce Islam in favor of Christianity, highlighting the jurisdictional disputes in Malaysia’s dual legal system. […]
A public forum to discuss such jurisdictional disputes, in this case the dual court system’s effect on families of people who convert to Islam, was scheduled for Saturday (Aug. 9) but Muslim protestors succeeded in halting it after only one hour.
Sponsored by a body of legal practitioners called the Malaysian Bar Council, the public forum that began at 9 a.m. was scheduled to last until 1 p.m., but police advised organizers to end it at 10 a.m. as protestors outside the council headquarters shouting “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” “Destroy Bar Council” and “Long Live Islam” became rowdy. A handful of protestors flanked by police officers marched into the building shouting for the meeting to end immediately.
The protestors included members from several Malay-Muslim movements, including the Malaysian Islamic Propagation and Welfare Organization and the Federation of Malay Students Union, as well as members of political parties such as the United Malays National Organization, the People’s Justice Party (PKR) and Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS).
The forum had been widely criticized by various Malay-Muslim groups and individuals for raising the ire of Muslims by touching on issues sensitive to Islam. Among those critical were cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Prior to the event, the Bar Council had been urged to either cancel the forum or hold the event behind closed doors, but the organizers decided to proceed albeit with the cautionary measure of requiring participants at the open forum to register.
A day prior to the forum, the Bar Council issued a press release to clarify the purpose of the forum through council Vice President Ragunath Kesavan. Ragunath made clear that the forum would not question the provisions of Article 121(1A), which confer jurisdiction over Muslims in personal, religious and family matters on the sharia courts, and that the forum would not question Islam or its status as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
Rather, Ragunath said, the purpose of the meeting was to address issues affecting families of those who convert to Islam and were caught between the separate jurisdiction of the civil and sharia courts.
The morning of the forum, two unidentified men on motorcycles threw kerosene bombs into the compound of a residence formerly occupied by the president of the Bar Council, Ambiga Sreenevasan. Many believed the incident was linked to the Bar Council’s forum on conversion.[…]
Others have urged the government to take decisive and immediate steps to address the problems arising from the country”s dual legal system. In Malaysia, sharia laws are binding on Muslims in personal, religious and family matters while civil laws apply to all citizens.