PM Abdullah urges Islamic teachers to be more understanding
(Channel News Asia, 2007) - Mr Abdullah says: "This is not something that cannot be done. It has happened before. Those who have decided to leave the religion for some reason, they don't want to be Muslims anymore, what can you do? If they want to leave the religion, what are you going to do?"
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has called on the country's religious departments to listen to the problems raised by those wanting to renounce Islam and find a solution for them.
He was speaking to reporters after opening an Islamic conference in Putrajaya on Monday.
The Malaysian leader has urged Islamic teachers to be more understanding and provide a listening ear to those who want to leave the religion.
He made this point when speaking to reporters after opening an Islamic conference in Putrajaya.
Mr Abdullah says: "I have always said to the religious officers that they must listen to what their grouses are. Is it that they are disappointed with certain things that happened and because of that they want to leave the religion of Islam?"
Asked about the growing number of religious disputes dominating news headlines, he clarified that Muslims can leave the religion but they must first bring the matter to the state religious authorities.
Mr Abdullah says: "This is not something that cannot be done. It has happened before. Those who have decided to leave the religion for some reason, they don't want to be Muslims anymore, what can you do? If they want to leave the religion, what are you going to do?"
But he stressed that religious officers must offer counselling and find out what was behind the intention to renounce Islam.
Under Malaysia's Syariah law, it is the duty of religious authorities to determine whether a Muslim should be allowed to leave the religion or not.
Just last week, a 29-year-old Indian woman, who wanted to renounce Islam, was released from a rehabilitation centre run by the state's Islamic religious authorities.
Revathi, also known as Siti Fatimah, was born to Hindu parents who later converted to Islam.
She was separated from her Hindu husband and 18-month-old daughter for six months and claimed to have been ill-treated.
She says: "It was a waste of time. I was detained and tortured in there. I was separated from my husband and my child. I am not satisfied at all!"
Since she's out of the rehabilitation centre, the civil court has decided that it has no jurisdiction to hear her plight given she is no longer under any form of actual detention.
Revathi's fate now lies with the Syariah court.
Revathi is known as the Indian Lina Joy.
Lina Joy, who was born a Malay Muslim, earlier failed in her bid to renounce Islam and be officially recognised as a Christian, despite appealing to the country's highest court.
Their cases have attracted much public sympathy in Malaysia's multi-racial and multi-religious society.