Civil courts have no jurisdiction over cases of religious renunciation

13/07/2022 Malaysia (International Christian Concern) – Malaysia’s High Court rejected an offer from a woman who wanted to legally renounce Islam. The Court said that civil courts have no jurisdiction to hear such cases.

Malaysia, which is officially secular but has a predominantly Muslim population, has Sharia courts that hear and decide matters relating to Islam. Justice Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid said the Federal Constitution had given power under Article 121(1A) to the Sharia courts to adjudicate waiver cases.

The woman, who was born a Muslim, sought to renounce Islam in the Sharia High Court in 2018, saying she wanted to practice Buddhism. The court rejected his request to renounce Islam in 2020, after ordering him to attend 12 counseling sessions.

She appealed the decision and the Shariah Court of Appeal upheld the decision. The woman then turned to the civil courts to overturn the decisions of the Sharia courts. She claimed the decision to deny her request to “convert out” violated Article 11, which guaranteed a person’s freedom of religion.

High Court Judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid said the Sharia courts had done nothing wrong in rejecting the woman’s attempt to renounce Islam. He cited Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution, which empowers Sharia courts to adjudicate waiver cases.

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Thelma J. Longworth