Sisters in Islam still 'deviant' as civil court has no jurisdiction over fatwa

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): The High Court on Tuesday (Aug 27) dismissed an application by Sisters In Islam (SIS) challenging the decision of the Selangor Fatwa Committee which declared it a deviant organisation which had deviated from the true teachings of Islam.

The court ruled that a fatwa (edict) is the exclusive jurisdiction of the Syariah Court.

Judge Datuk Nordin Hassan said the civil court had no jurisdiction to hear the application brought by SIS, its founder Zainah Mahfoozah Anwar and former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim, pursuant to Article 121A of the Federal Constitution.

"The civil court has no jurisdiction relating to hukum syarak of Syariah Law. In my view, the fatwa issue is related to Syariah Law and it is the exclusive jurisdiction under the Syariah Court," he said.

Nordin said the court also found the decision on the issuance of the fatwa dated July 17,2014, and gazetted on July 31,2014, was not tainted with illegality and proportionality.

"The applicants’ application is dismissed with costs of RM10,000," he said.

The judge said Section 66A of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003 was an avenue to seek a judicial review against the fatwa committee in the Syariah High Court.

"There is no time frame to file a judicial review application in the Syariah Court, but within three months from the date of the decision," he said.

Nordin disagreed with the SIS argument that as it was a company, the state religious authorities had no power over them.

"The company and directors of the SIS Forum are Muslim and their activities relate to Islamic laws; the fatwa is applicable, ” he said, adding that the company was not immune to the fatwa.

On Sept 25,2018, a Federal Court seven-man bench chaired by Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum ordered the suit to be remitted back to the High Court for a decision on the issues of jurisdiction and merit.

Justice Malanjum said all parties were free to submit their arguments on the issue of jurisdiction at the High Court to save time.

The Federal Court also set aside the Court of Appeal decision of March 2,2017, allowing a SIS appeal to initiate the judicial review proceedings.

Dissatisfied with the Appeals Court verdict, the respondents – Selangor Fatwa Committee, Selangor Islamic Affairs Council (MAIS) and Selangor state government – filed an appeal to the Federal Court.

On June 24,2016, the High Court dismissed the judicial review application filed by SIS, its founder Zainah Mahfoozah Anwar and former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim to challenge a Selangor fatwa labelling the organisation as deviant after ruling that the civil court did not have jurisdiction to decide over the issue of fatwa.

On Oct 31,2014, SIS Forum (Malaysia), Zainah and Mohd Zaid filed the application to challenge the Selangor Fatwa Committee decision declaring the organisation as deviating from Islamic teachings and named the Selangor Fatwa Committee, MAIS and the Selangor government as respondents.

They were seeking a certiorari order to quash the decision of the Selangor Fatwa Committee and MAIS which stated that the organisation and any individual, as well as groups which adopted the deviant ideologies of liberalism and pluralism, were deviating from the teachings of Islam. – Bernama

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