July 28, 1964
Lina Joy is a Malay convert from Islam to Christianity. Born Azlina Jailani in 1964 in Malaysia to Muslim parents of Javanese descent, she converted at age 26. In 1998, she was baptized, and applied to have her conversion legally recognized by the Malaysian courts. Though her change of name was recognized in 1999 and so noted on her identity card, her change of religion was not (for lack of a Mahkamah Syariah confirmation document); for this reason, she filed suit with the High Court in 1999, bypassing the Syariah Court (Islamic court). She later filed suit with the Federal Court in 2006. Joy hopes to live openly as a Christian; she was forced to go into hiding by the publicity surrounding her case.
In a majority verdict delivered on May 30, 2007, the Federal Court rejected her appeal. Her appeal was dismissed 2-1 by Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Datuk Alauddin Mohd Sheriff. The ruling stated that "a person who wanted to renounce his/her religion must do so according to existing laws or practices of the particular religion. Only after the person has complied with the requirements and the authorities are satisfied that the person has apostatised, can she embrace Christianity.... In other words, a person cannot, at one's whims and fancies renounce or embrace a religion."
The dissenting Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Richard Malanjum wrote that "Hence, in my view this is tantamount to unequal treatment under the law. In other words it is discriminatory and unconstitutional and should therefore be struck down. For this reason alone, the relief sought for by the appellant should be granted, namely for a declaration that she is entitled to have an identity card in which the word 'Islam' does not appear."
Legal recognition would have allowed her to have the change of religion noted on her national identity card; it would also remove the legal barrier to her marrying her Christian fiancé (marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men is forbidden under Malaysian law and under the Shariah/Islamic Jurisprudence; the non-Muslim man is required to convert to Islam under Malaysian law; Under Shariah, Muslim men are only allowed to marry People of the Book, those who adhere to Abrahamic religions that pre-date Islam, however with conditions and restrictions). In Malaysia, the Shariah Court alone has the power to deal with Islamic issues, including legal recognition for conversion to and from Islam. Conversely, the Shariah Court has no jurisdiction over those who are not Muslims. Joy, by her own admission, is no longer Muslim, but only the Shariah Court can legally recognize this. Conversion is not something unknown, and according to Muslim Lawyers Association spokesman Pawanchek Merican, "…In Negeri Sembilan, the Shariah court allowed 16 people to renounce Islam…"
According to a senior official in the National Registration Department (NRD), for the NRD to change the religion on her identity card would mean that the department would be officially declaring her an apostate, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Shariah Court. The jurisdiction of the Shariah Court over converts from Islam to other religions has been hotly debated by the Malaysian public in the past few years, with this and other court cases involving converts closely followed by the media. Joy is not the first person to apply for recognition of conversion from Islam; another woman named only as "Maria" by the BBC is also pursuing a similar case. In 2006, the Negeri Sembilan Syariah High Court in Seremban granted recognition for the conversion from Islam to Buddhism of Wong Ah Kiu (also known as Nyonya Tahir). However, being raised by a Chinese Buddhist family despite her Malay origins, Wong had never practiced Islam in her life and was deceased at the time of the ruling.
- The Malaysian Bar - Lina Joy v Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan & 2 Ors 2005 [CA]
- Learning from conservatism in Malaysia
- Note: Sharia, the Arabic term for Islamic law, is typically spelled "Syariah" in Malaysian English
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- Pressly, Linda (November 15, 2006). "Life as a secret Christian convert". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- "Lina Joy Loses Appeal". theStarOnline. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
- Suaram (2007-05-30). "Lina Joy loses appeal to drop 'Islam' from her NRIC (The Sun)". Retrieved 2007-06-07.
- "Lina Joy loses appeal to drop 'Islam' from her NRIC". Sun2Surf. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
- The Sun, Thursday May 31, 2007, p. 2.
- "All eyes on Lina Joy case". The Star (Malaysia). 2006-06-25. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- "Commission to study religious-sensitive cases". The Star (Malaysia). 2007-04-11. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- "Lina Joy ruling the 'next change', says chief justice", New Straits Times, April 12, 2007.
- Becket Fund for Religious Liberty "Malaysia — State Imposed Religious Designations "
- Court decides Shariah trumps Catholic baptismal certificate in violation of International Law and Malaysian Constitutional Law
- Media statement on the Lina Joy decision from PEMBELA (The Muslim Organisations in Defence of Islam)