This was what Yang Amat Arif Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, the Chief Justice of Malaysia said when he made the landmark ruling on Lina Joy’s case yesterday at the Federal Court in Putrajaya.
Quoted from The Star, www.thestar.com.my, :
Thursday May 31, 2007
CJ: NRD’s requirement is reasonable
PUTRAJAYA: Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim has ruled that the National Registration Department had reasonably required Lina Joy to get a certificate of apostasy from the Syariah Court.
This would allow the court to proceed to make a deletion (of the word ‘Islam’) from her identity card.
The top judge also ruled that since the Syariah Court had the jurisdiction over cases involving conversion to Islam, it should, by implication, have the power to decide on apostasy matters.
“I do not see any defect in the 1999 Federal Court judgement in the case of Soon Singh (which decided on the same grounds and which led to the provision for Muslims to state their religion in their identity card).
“To say that she is not under the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court – because she no longer professes Islam – is not appropriate,” said Ahmad Fairuz in his 41-page judgment.
He added that the way one leaves a religion is set by the religion itself.
“No one is stopping her from marrying. She is merely required to fulfil certain obligations, for the Islamic authorities to confirm her apostasy, before she embraces Christianity.
“In other words, one cannot embrace or leave a religion according to one’s whims and fancies.”
He said a mere statutory declaration that one has renounced Islam is not sufficient to remove the word “Islam” from a Muslim person’s identity card.
“This is because apostasy is an issue dealing with Islamic laws.
“Therefore, the NRD has adopted the policy that requires verification by the religious authorities or the Syariah Court before the department can delete the word.
“Therefore, I agree with the Court of Appeal’s majority judgment that the NRD’s policy is completely reasonable,” said Ahmad Fairuz.
This was how NST, www.nst.com.my , featured the same story:
Federal Court dismiss Lina Joy’s appeal
LINA Joy has lost her long battle to have her religious status adjudicated by the country’s civil laws.
A three-judge Federal Court panel ruled by a 2-1 majority that only the syariah court
has the power to determine whether a person is still a Muslim based on Islamic law.
It said Lina, born Azlina Jailani, should obtain a syariah court order confirming her
apostasy before the NRD could remove the word “Islam” from her identity card…
Lina ‘must go to syariah court’
PUTRAJAYA: Lina Joy lost her long battle through the courts yesterday to have her religious status adjudicated under the country’s civil laws.
The Federal Court rejected her appeal for the removal of the word “Islam” from her identity card, saying the issue of conversion should be dealt with by the syariah court.The three-judge panel, comprising Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Richard Malanjum and Datuk Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, ruled 2-1 against Lina, who has been trying to effect the change for nine years.Ahmad Fairuz, with Alauddin concurring and Malanjum dissenting, said in a 42-page judgment that there were three issues that needed to be decided:
• Whether the National Registration Department was entitled in law to impose a requirement for a person to produce a declaration from the syariah court before deleting the word “Islam” from the person’s IC.
• Whether the NRD was correct to impose the requirement when it was not expressly provided for in the regulations, and;
• Whether a prior case of religious conversion had been rightly decided when the court declared that Islamic matters were under the jurisdiction of the syariah court.Ahmad Fairuz said he agreed with the NRD that it could not accept the statutory declaration provided by Lina that she was no longer a Muslim.
“If this is done, those born and educated as Muslims may also choose to remain ignorant, or, in wanting to prevent persecution from Islamic laws, may declare themselves to be renouncing the religion.
“This would result in Muslim society being ostracised. For this reason, in the majority decision I feel that a statutory declaration to the NRD to determine a person’s religion was insufficient for the word ‘Islam’ to be removed.”Lina, 43, born Azlina Jailani, had managed to change her name in her identity card, but her religion remained listed as Islam. She made several applications between 1998 and 2000 to remove the word, but these were rejected.
“The NRD officer was acting within his powers to seek documentary statements as reference which he felt necessary to support any application.
“Reference here need not mean that the syariah court had the jurisdiction to delete the word “Islam” in the identity card. The syariah court is only required to determine whether the appellant was still a Muslim based on Islamic law.”
Ahmad Fairuz said the court felt that the determination of whether a person had renounced Islam was within the realm of Islamic law, and that the right authority was thus the syariah court.”Hence, the NRD’s reluctance to react until it received certification from an Islamic authority like the syariah court was logical,” he said.
Lina had sought legal redress at the High Court, naming the Federal Territory Islamic Council, the government and the director-general of the NRD as respondents.
On April 23, 2001, the court dismissed her application on the grounds that the issue should be decided by the syariah court. It also held that as a Malay and a Muslim, she could not convert.
She took her case to the Court of Appeal and, on Sept 19, 2005, was again turned down by a 2-1 decision. She then appealed to the nation’s highest court.”If a person professes and practises Islam, he should be following Islamic laws including his conversion or renunciation,” Ahmad Fairuz said.
“That is what is meant by adopting and practising Islam. What the NRD did was to ascertain whether Lina had renounced the religion. I do not see it as an infringement to freedom of religion as provided in the Constitution.”
On the third issue before the court, Ahmad Fairuz felt that the case had been correctly decided.In that case, Soon Singh had applied to renounce Islam and the High Court declared that jurisdiction on Islamic matters belonged to the syariah court.
The Federal Court, where the case went on appeal, also affirmed that it had no express provisions to deal with apostasy and that the issue came under the purview of the syariah court.
I never attended any of Sulaiman Abdullah’s, Pawan Chik Merican’s, Zulkifli Nordin’s and/or Zainur Zakaria’s organized events, which include PEMBELA and Muslim Lawyers Association, to explain their opposition on the case and all the cases within the same jurisprudence. Once I sat in Alumni Kelab UMNO meeting sometime last year and Assoc. Prof. Noraziah Awab presented the case on these apostasy issues. I did not pay attention. I did not even bother to read the paper she presented, which was circulated to all Exco. I simply bloody don’t give a toss about it.
However, people like my best friend did. Sometime last year, he went to the Wilayah Persekutuan mosque thingy and some other forum organised by ABIM on this issue (its so insignificant to me that I don’t actually remember when it was! – I am usually very meticulous with dates).
“15,000 people showed up at the Wilayah Persekutuan mosque”, he always reminded me. For our friendship’s sake, I take his word for it (although I seriously doubt his accuracy on these sort of things). I keep saying to him, that I don’t understand why the loud reaction against issues like this. This is far reaching beyond the issues what and how it was presented.
Personally, I don’t bloody give a toss what people like Lina Joy wants to do with her life and her faith. But something changed my impartiality to this case.
I attended a briefing organized by some practicing lawyers who are Pro-Article 11 movement. I went there with an open mind. The opening gambit was “The Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia is the Supreme Law”. They then explained the merits and demerits of all the cases involving the issues that surround the Lina Joy case, at length.
However, they started rubbishing the learned Judges who made the decision against the interests of this group. They mock the Judges and their ruling. They used phrases like “The Syariah Court is an inferior court compared to the High Court”. They want us to respect the Constitution but they cannot respect when the Constitution was interpreted? Just because Federal Court and Court of Appeal Judges ruled and interpreted the Constitution against their interests?
That’s it! Now I have a position. I am against the Pro-Article 11 movement and ALL the cases that relate to that. In fact, I loathe the arrogance and ‘diabolical’ attempt to belittle and demean Judges who made the ruling against these group’s interests. Why? This Kurang-Ajarness of the minority is very clear now. They narrowly define, exploit, manipulate, systematically test it for loop-holes and hide behind the Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia and not respect the interests of the majority.
(*addendum) Maybe they systematically want to challenge, defy and insult the Judiciary, the Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia, interests of the majority (reflected on the changes brought forth by the democratically elected Government and majority that support the Government) and the position of HRH Malay Rulers as defenders of the faith in this country.
As I remember it, the law exists to protect the interests of the majority. Now that the Chief Justice has interpreted the Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia, it becomes a precedence.