Friday, June 08, 2007

Matters of Conscience

via Doug Bandow at NRO.

Great article on the recent decision by a Malaysian court to prevent a Malysian woman from converting from Islam to Christianity. Malaysia is obstensibly a secular state, but majority Muslim, and other faiths are "limited" and once you are identified as a Muslim, you can apparently never change faiths. Malaysia is about 60% Muslim.

"Although there is no overt persecution in Malaysia, non-Muslims face significant restrictions. The government officially promotes Islam; Muslim civil servants must attend religion courses. “Proselytizing of Muslims by members of other religions is strictly prohibited, although proselytizing of non-Muslims faces no similar obstacles,” reports the U.S. State Department. Violators may be fined and imprisoned. Moreover, “belittling Islam” comes with the risk of imprisonment under the Sedition Act."

Hence the case of one Lina Joy, a Muslim Malay that has been attending Catholic services since 1990 and was baptized into that faith in 1998. She is attempting to simply have the government recognize her change in faith but religious matters are referred from the civil courts in Malaysia to Islamic sharia courts, where a charge of apostasy can be...problematic, to say the least.

"Apostasy is a serious Islamic offense, and converts face fines and imprisonment; some offenders are “counseled” and, if they remain recalcitrant, are sent to “rehabilitation” centers in the mold of Communist reeducation camps. (Only one of the 13 states in Malaysia actually allows apostasy, and only after an attempt at “rehabilitation,” while one sets death as punishment, though no one has yet been executed.)"

Unfortunately, while Joy took her case to civil court, she has lost the case to have the government identify her as Christian at all the various levels of Malay courts. Disowned by her family and having lost her job due to the controversy, her only apparent recourse is to emmigrate. She cannot marry her boyfriend, a fellow Catholic, unless he converts to Islam, and any children they might have could be taken from them unless they are educated as Muslims.


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