Federal Court grants SIS forum leave to proceed appeal against fatwa labelling it as deviant

PUTRAJAYA: SIS Forum (Malaysia) obtained leave from the Federal Court to proceed with its appeal against a fatwa issued by the Selangor religious authorities that labelled the company as deviant from the teachings of Islam.

A three-member panel of judges comprising Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Chief Judge of Malaya Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah and Federal Court judge Tan Sri Nallini Pathmanathan on Monday (Aug 21) allowed the women’s rights group’s application to get leave to appeal with 10 questions of law to be argued in the substantive appeal.

In the court’s unanimous decision delivered online, Justice Abang Iskandar said SIS Forum had met the threshold requirement under Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 and is hereby given leave to proceed with its appeal.

In civil cases, litigants are required to obtain leave before they can proceed with appeals to the Federal Court.

One of the questions is whether a fatwa, once published in the Gazette under Section 48(6), Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003, is a form of subsidiary law and/or delegated legislation.

On March 14, this year, the Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 majority decision, dismissed the appeal brought by SIS Forum and one of its co-founders Zainah Mahfoozah Anwar to quash the fatwa.

The Court of Appeal held that the fatwa prepared by the Selangor State Fatwa Committee was not a final decision and thus cannot be challenged through a judicial review application.

SIS Forum and Zainah had appealed to the Court of Appeal after they were unsuccessful in their legal challenge at the High Court to quash the fatwa. Their judicial review application was dismissed by the High Court on Aug 27, 2019.

The fatwa, gazetted by the Selangor State government on July 31, 2014, had declared that SIS Forum, any individual, as well as groups that adopted the deviant ideologies of liberalism and pluralism, were deviating from the teachings of Islam.

The fatwa also directed that any publications containing liberal and plural views of Islam should be banned and confiscated and further directs the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to censor social websites which go against Islamic teaching and laws.

In the notice of motion requesting leave, SIS Forum proposed 10 questions of law.

Lawyer Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar represented SIS Forum while lawyer Aidil Khalid appeared for Selangor State Fatwa Committee, counsel Yusfarizal Yussoff acted for the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) and assistant state legal adviser Khairul Nizam Abu Bakar appeared for the Selangor government.- Bernama

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