( People's Parliament Blog. Read Here)
In a Malaysiakini report entitled ‘Don’t court controversy, say Muslim groups’, it was reported, in relation to the Federal Court decision in Lina Joy’s case, that :
‘Muslim groups and individuals urged for such issues to be resolved in future without recourse to courts of law and before they reach the level of public controversy’.
Let me state from the outset that I am in complete agreement.
The Lina Joy-like issues should NOT need to be taken to court and should NOT reach the level of public controversy as her case did.
This begs the question.
Why did Lina’s case end up before the courts, and
Why all the controversy?
Justice Richard Malanjum’s judgment, the full text of which can be downloaded from the Bar website, narrates the relevant facts, beginning at page 4.
On 21/2/1997 Lina applied to the IC department to change her name to Lina Lelani.
Her stated reasons: she had embraced Christianity and wished to marry a Christian.
Pause here to note 2 facts and speculate on 1 probability.
Fact 1: at this time the law did not require one’s IC to bear the word ‘Islam’ if one was a Muslim. This was only introduced in late 1999.Let’s continue with the facts.
Fact 2: as her IC bore a Malay name, the registry of civil marriages would not have allowed Lina to proceed to register a civil marriage, assuming her to be a Muslim.
Probability: if Lina was not planning to settle down, she would not have sought the change in particulars in her IC. We would probably never have known of her.
Her 1997 application to the IC department was rejected on 11/8/1997 without any reason given.
Lina applied again on 15/3/1999, now asking her name to appear as ‘Lina Joy’. Again her stated reason in her statutory declaration was that she had embraced Christianity.
Pause just for a moment and observe that surely, up to now, the approach by Lina has been anything but confrontational.
Controversial, perhaps. If she was to have a chance to be married in law and start a family, an application for change of particulars in her IC was absolutely necessary, given the stance of the registry of civil marriages.On 22/10/1999, Lina was informed by the IC department that her application had been approved and that she should make application for her new IC.
Lina claims that in July, 1999, she was told by an IC deparment officer that so as not to complicate her application, she should drop ‘change of religion’ as her reason for her ‘change of name’ application.
To make a long story short, she put in a fresh statutory declaration in August, 1999 stating the requested change of name was simply one of choice.
What the department did not inform Lina was that a change in the regulations in relation to particulars to appear in the ICs of Muslims was underway. ‘Islam’ would appear on the face of such ICs.
Lina applied for her new IC on 25/10/1999. The new iC issued to Lina bore her new name on the front of the card. On the reverse side, her original name appeared. Also, on the front side, the word ‘Islam’ was imprinted.
Pause just to note that the change of name did not help Lina’s hope of having a civil registry marriage approved, given the word ‘Islam’ now imprinted on her IC.
Lina now applied again on 3/1/2000 to the IC department to remove the word ‘Islam’ from her new IC. She was told that she would have to produce an order of the Syariah Court confirming that she had renounced Islam.
Pause and observe:
This woman was in and out of the IC department for almost 3 years, in the hope that she could get on with her life.Was she confrontational?
I think she demonstrated a level of patience few of us are capable of.
Without recourse to courts of law?
Court procedure is an unhealthy one?
Zaid and Yusri, please be fair.
- Who directed her to have recourse to the courts of law, with procedure that is unhealthy?
- Who told her that her non-confrontational series of applications were insufficient?
Ah, but the IC department said the Syariah Court, not the civil.
Is that how we must understand it, then? It’s confrontational and controversial if its in the civil courts; not so if its in the Syariah Courts?
Two problems to this, though. 1 legal, 2. practical.
Lawyers know that the jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts is constitutionally limited to persons ‘professing’ the religion of Islam’.
Commonsense and case-law will tell you that no-one knows the religion professed by A better than A himself, barring mental deficiencies.
Lina says she professes the Christian faith. She produced a certificate of baptism. You may contend that she is ‘legally’ still Muslim without a Syariah Court order. Without conceding to the correctness of such a contention, you must surely agree that that is NOT the same as she being a person ‘professing’ the religion of Islam.
This is the legal difficulty with the direction to get a Syariah Court order.
The practical difficulty was alluded to by Justice Richard Malanjum, at paragraph 70 on page 41 of his written judgment when he pointedly observed: “In some states in Malaysia, apostasy is an offence. Hence, to expect the Appeallant (Lina) to apply for a certificate of apostasy when to do so would likely expose her to a range of offences under the Islamic law is in my view unreasonable for it means the Appellant (Lina) is made to self-incriminate”.
To illustrate the practical point further. We all recall the Nyonya Tahir case and how it was hailed as the solution to this recurring problem of ‘Muslim or not’?
We forget that in the Nonya Tahir case, the issue was whether to bury the dead as a Muslim or not, and not as to the religious status of a living person.
Siti Fatimah ( better known internationally now as Revathi ) also overlooked the significance of the Nonya Tahir case.
She applied to the Syariah Court in Malacca for a declaration as to her religious status. The order of the Syariah Court: detention at the rehabilitation centre in Ulu Yam.
Is this the less confrontational and controversial approach that is advocated?
Next post - why all the controversy?