Malaysia: Tension, Appeasement & Restriction

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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 392 - Wed 23 Aug 2006


RLP 384 (June Update) requested prayer for a critical court case in
Malaysia. Lina Joy (42), who was born Azlina Jailani to Malay
parents, converted from Islam to Christianity when she was 26. The
National Registry Department consented to changing her name on her
ID card but told Lina she had to get a certificate from the Sharia
Court to show she had permission to convert to Christianity, as
Malaysian law required a Muslim's religious matters to be decided
in a Sharia (Islamic) Court. However according to traditional
Islamic Law apostasy (leaving Islam) is not a Muslim's right - it
is a capital offence.

As long as Lina is officially identified as a Muslim she is legally
compelled to marry a Muslim man in a Muslim ceremony and be subject
to Islamic Laws, including Islamic family law. So Lina has been
fighting for her rights. In 2001 the High Court refused to rule on
her case. In September 2005 the High Court dismissed her appeal, so
Lina's counsel is now challenging the decision in the Federal
Court. The Federal Court ruling will clarify whether the religious
freedom of Malaysia's Muslims is determined by the Constitution
(which gives liberty) or the Sharia (which denies it). At the time
of writing RLP 384, the decision was pending. Two months later, the
decision is still pending.

'Article 11', a multi-faith umbrella body that includes 13 non-
government organisations, is protesting about Islamisation and is
rallying for the supremacy of the Constitution which guarantees
religious freedom, including the freedom to convert. In response,
Islamist groups are protesting secularisation and rallying for the
supremacy of Sharia which negates that constitutional right for
Muslims. As all Malays (50 percent of the population) are defined
by the Constitution as Muslim, religious freedom is thereby denied
them from birth on racial grounds. The public debate has set
religious tensions simmering and Prime Minister Badawi has moved to
appease the Islamists. In July the Ministry of Internal Security
banned 18 books offensive to Islamists (including 'Lifting the
Veil' by Trudie Crawford, 'Sharing Your Faith with A Muslim' by
Akbidayah Akbar Abdul-Haqqand, and 'Islam' by Mathew Gordon, Oxford
University Press) alleging the books had potential to 'disrupt
peace and harmony'. PM Badawi decided to 'preserve social harmony'
by directing Article 11 and the media to refrain from discussing
religious issues.

According to Badawi the anti-proselytising laws that ban presenting
other faiths to Muslims must be implemented to preserve racial and
religious harmony. On 21 August he urged Malaysian states with such
laws to start enforcing them and the other states to frame them
now. Witnessing to Muslims is not illegal under federal law but it
may be banned at the state level. Meanwhile in the northern state
of Kelantan, state-funded Islamic missionaries are receiving
financial incentives to convert tribal Orang Asli (Original People)
to Islam. Islamic missionaries who agree to live and work amongst
them will receive free housing, a monthly allowance of 1,000
ringgit (US$270) and a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Those who marry
tribal women will be given 10,000 ringgit (US$2,700).


* Malaysia's Prime Minister Badawi, that God will direct his heart
(Proverbs 21:1) away from the intimidating, threatening voices
of Islamists towards the voices of justice, equality and
religious liberty, filling him with the moral conviction and
courage needed to stand for what is right.

* the Federal Court judges still deliberating over Lina Joy's
appeal; may God direct their hearts (Proverbs 21:1) towards a
just outcome enabling all Malaysians to enjoy their
constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of
religious freedom.

* God to fill the Malaysian Church with peace and grace amidst
hostility, as well as zeal and courage amidst a mission field;
may God raise up Christian voices and leaders to be both lights
and signposts to a society in transition.

* God to work in all things for the good of those in Malaysia who
love the Lord and have been called according to his purpose
(Romans 8:28), so that by whatever means he ordains, Malaysians
will come to see the Lord and embrace him as their only Saviour.




Malaysia's Federal Court is presently deliberating a case that will
determine whether Muslims have the right to change their religion
without requiring permission from a Sharia Court. (Of course a
Sharia Court would not grant permission because Sharia deems
leaving Islam to be a capital offence). The Federal Court's ruling
will clarify whether the religious freedom of Malaysia's Muslims is
determined by the Constitution (which gives liberty) or the Sharia
(which denies it). The public debate over religious liberty has
become heated and Prime Minister Badawi has moved to appease the
Islamists. Amongst other measures he has recommended that state
anti-proselytising laws be enforced, but only against those
presenting a faith other than Islam to Muslims. Please pray for the
judges deliberating this case, and pray for the Church in Malaysia.

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RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.