Sarawak to amend laws on conversion

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 04 Mar 2018

Exciting experiment: Abang Johari (third from left) with (from left) Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuching Archdiocese Simon Poh, state Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian and St Joseph’s International School Board of Governors chairman Tan Sri Leo Moggie visiting the school’s science lab.

KUCHING: Sarawak will amend its syariah laws to ensure that converts will not “be left hanging” when they renounce Islam, says Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said the amendments will include a standard operating procedure (SOP) of what needs to be done when a convert decides to leave Islam.

The state authorities are looking into the legal approach of the matter and it would take about six months to prepare the amendments, he added.

Abang Johari said the laws needed to be strengthened to ensure that the definitions are expressed clearly in a court ruling when a person is no longer a Muslim.

“We will amend any weaknesses in our syariah laws in dealing with apostasy cases. There must be a SOP because we cannot leave people hanging.

“If that person wishes to leave (the faith), why not let him leave?” he said after opening St Joseph’s Inter­national School here yesterday.

Abang Johari said there are loopholes in the state religious laws that needed to be addressed.

There is no judicial power to say that a person has renounced their religion, making it an administrative problem for the National Registration Department (NRD) in relation to the person’s identification cards.

He was commenting on the Federal Court ruling last Tuesday which said that only the state sya­riah court has the power to hear apostasy cases after four Sara­wa­k­ians applied to leave Islam.

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.

The fourth individual, Islam-born Syarifah Nooraffyza Wan Hosen, converted to Christianity.

The four want to be officially recognised as Christians.

The Syariah Court, in 2015, had written to the four stating that the court could not give them a letter of release from Islam as required by the NRD due to the matter of jurisdiction.

The Sarawak Syariah Court Ordinance 2001 has no provisions on conversion of religion, but there are provisions in the Majlis Islam Sarawak Ordinance that could be used to hear apostasy cases.

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