Religious Freedom in Malaysia

Bruce Michael

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There is none. If you want to cease to be a Muslim and convert to Christianity, then leave.

This has been the experience of of Lina Joy:
Lina Joy was born in Malaysia into a Muslim family. At birth, she was given the name Azalina binti Jailani. In 1998, however, she decided to convert to Christianity. She announced her intention of marrying a Christian man. Under the Malaysian Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, she would not be able to contract such a marriage unless her new status as a non-Muslim was recognised.

But apostasy is forbidden in Islam:
First, apostates in Malaysia are subject to a range of penalties under state legislation. In some states, apostasy is a criminal offence. In the State of Pahang, s 185 of the Administration of the Religion of Islam and the Malay Custom Enactment of 1982 (Amendment 1989) provides:

“Any Muslim who states that he has ceased to be a Muslim, whether orally, in writing or in any other manner whatsoever, with any intent whatsoever, commits an offence, and on conviction shall be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both and to whipping of not more than six strokes.”

In other states of Malaysia apostasy is punishable by mandatory detention at a rehabilitation centre for periods of up to three years. During such period, apostates undergo a course of education and, (presumably under this persuasion) they are asked to repent.

Michael Kirby on religious freedom and the law