KUCHING: The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) regrets the behaviour of some youths who heckled Catholic Archbishop of Kuching Simon Poh outside the courthouse here after a Federal Court ruling on the jurisdiction of apostasy cases on Tuesday (Feb 27).
"It is very regrettable that this rowdy and unruly behaviour has transpired and encroached into the shores of our peace-loving people of Sarawak," ACS chairman Rev Datuk Dr Justin Wan said.
He said the association may lodge a police report on the incident and would convey its shock, sadness and displeasure to the state's Unit for Other Religions.
He also urged the state government to look into the matter seriously to prevent it from happening again and to take immediate action against those who ignited the unwanted incident.
The heckling occurred as Poh was leaving the court following the apex court's dismissal of an appeal by four Sarawakians to have their applications to convert out of Islam heard by the civil court.
The unanimous decision by a five-man panel held that the Syariah Court in Sarawak had jurisdiction to hear apostasy cases.
On the decision, Wan said that as Christians and law-abiding citizens, ACS would abide by the court of law and submit to the rules of the country.
He also reminded member churches to keep calm and not make unnecessary or unwanted comments on social media.
Meanwhile, Muslim NGO Halaqah Kemajuan Muslim Sarawak (Hikam) said the Federal Court decision upheld the separation of jurisdiction between the civil and Syariah courts as provided in Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution.
It said the decision also confirmed the practice of freedom of religion in Malaysia as guaranteed by Article 11(1) of the Constitution.
"The right of freedom of religion is practised in accordance to a holistic approach to the law in order to protect its framework and the legal system of Malaysia.
"The right of the appellants to freedom of religion in this case remains guaranteed not only by the Federal Constitution but also by syariah laws being enforced in Sarawak through the implications of Sections 68, 69 and 70 of the Majlis Islam Sarawak Ordinance 2001.
"Their application for a declaration of conversion out of Islam needs to be determined by the right forum which is the Syariah Court," it said.
Hikam called on all parties to accept the decision "with an open heart" and to abstain from prejudicial allegations or actions against fellow Sarawakians.
"We, of all religions and races, must move forward together, protecting justice and harmony to make Sarawak the best place for us to live in," it added.
In a statement, Poh gave assurance that he was fine.
"There was a commotion in court and the crowd was getting rowdy after the judgment. Many good Muslims were there to escort me safely out, including Puan Zabariah (Matali), a personal friend who is the chief executive officer of the Islamic Information Centre," he said.
He also said the case heard by the Federal Court was not one of the church versus Islam but on whether the civil or Syariah court has jurisdiction over apostasy.
"Since we have the Syariah Court to govern the Muslims, the Syariah Court has the power to grant Muslims the right to leave Islam according to the law.
"Therefore we do not lose this case nor win it," he said.
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