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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Civil courts cannot hear apostasy cases, Federal Court rules

The Federal Court in Kuching has ruled that the four individuals who wished to nullify their status as Muslims cannot do so through the civil courts.
According to the Borneo Post, the five-member panel unanimously ruled, based on case law, that civil courts had no jurisdiction to decide on apostasy cases.
The apex court was asked for a ruling on whether the Sarawak Syariah Court could hear apostasy cases which were not expressly provided for in the Syariah Court Ordinance 2001.
Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin (photo above) said although no such provision existed in the Syariah Court Ordinance 2001, there were provisions in the Majlis Islam Sarawak Ordinance 2001, which could be used by the syariah courts.
The panel was led by Justice Zulkefli, with the other members being Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Ahmad Maarop and Justices Hasan Lah, Jeffrey Tan and Ramly Ali.
The four applicants had posed the question to the Federal Court after their cases to nullify their status as Muslims were dismissed by the High Court in 2015 and later by the Court of Appeal in 2016.

Baru Bian, counsel for the four, had submitted that Sarawak Syariah Court "(was) not clothed with that power to decide on apostasy cases" by virtue of the Syariah Court Ordinance 2001.
However, counsel for the respondents - the Sarawak State Islamic Department and the National Registration Department - submitted that provisions in the Majlis Islam Sarawak Ordinance 2001 would suffice.
The four appellants - a person who was born Muslim and three converts - have been seeking court orders of release from Islam and for the religion in their identity cards to be changed to Christianity.
The saga began in January 2015, when the High Court refused to grant Syarifah Nooraffyzza Wan Hosen leave to initiate a case to nullify the status of her religion.
At the time, the court ruled against the plaintiff, based on rulings from four previous cases.
Following this, the three Muslim converts – Tiong Choo Ting @ Mohd Syafiq Abdullah, Salina Jau @ Salina Jau Abdullah, and Jenny Peter @ Nur Muzdhalifah Abdullah – faced the same ruling in September that year.
The Court of Appeal had reaffirmed the High Court's decision in the case brought by the three converts in 2017.-Mkini

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