KUCHING: The Federal Court will decide on Tuesday (Feb 27) whether the Syariah Court in Sarawak has jurisdiction over apostasy or conversions out of Islam.
A five-men bench comprising Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Ahmad Maarop Ahmad Maarop and Justices Hasan Lah, Jeffrey Tan and Ramly Ali adjourned their decision after hearing a joint appeal by four individuals who want to convert out of Islam.
The appellants raised the question of whether the Syariah Court's jurisdiction could be read into the Syariah Court Ordinance by implication as it is not expressly stated in its provisions.
The appellants are Syarifah Nooraffyza Wan Hosen, who converted to Christianity while three others, namely Mohd Syafiq Abdullah @ Tiong Choo Ting, Jenny Peter @ Nur Muzdhalifah Abdullah and Salina Jau Abdullah returned to Christianity after divorcing or the death of their spouses.
They named the Sarawak State Islamic Department director, Sarawak Islamic Council, National Registration Department director-general and state government as respondents.
"We leave it to the court to decide. I believe they will base it on the law," the appellants' lawyer Baru Bian told reporters after the hearing.
He said the matter of apostasy or conversion out of Islam should be expressly provided in the Syariah Court Ordinance in order for the Syariah Court to have jurisdiction over the matter.
"The respondents' argument is that the Majlis Islam Sarawak Ordinance 2001 has provisions on conversion into Islam. But our reply is that jurisdiction cannot be implied but must be expressly provided.
"There is no such provision in Sarawak, therefore the civil court should have jurisdiction," he said.
Also appearing for the appellants were Joshua P. Baru and Clarice Chan.
Deputy state attorney-general Saferi Ali and legal officer Hisyamudin Roslan appeared for the director of Sarawak State Islamic Department, Sarawak Islamic Council and state government while senior federal counsels Shamsul Bolhassan and Leo Saga appeared for director-general of National Registration Department.