Freedom of religion but not freedom of choice ? The Malaysian Dilemma [23 September 2004]
Court orders checks with NRD on "Islam" in IC
Putrajaya, Tues. – The Court of Appeal today ordered Senior Federal Counsel Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid to seek clarification from the National Registration Department on the Practice of putting the word "Islam" on identity cards.
The order was issued by head of the three-member panel, Justice Datuk Gopal Sri Nam, as the court questioned whether the word "Islam" on the identity card was mandatory under Malaysian law.
Sri Nam, who sat with Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohamed and Datuk Arifin Zakaria, adjourned hearing of an appeal by a woman seeking a declaration that she was free to practise the religion of her choice as enshrined in the Federal Constitution to Oct 14. The appellant, Lina Joy, whose original name is Azlina Jailani, is appealing against the High Court' decision rejecting her application to drop the word "Islam" in her identity card.
Justice Datuk Faiza Tamby Chik, in rejecting her application, had said as a Malay, she could not renounce Islam.
In his judgment on April 23, 2001, the judge also refused to decide on Lina’s wish to renounce Islam on the grounds that the issue should be decided by the Syariah Court.
Before the adjournment, the Court of Appeal heard a submission from Lina’s counsel, Datuk C. V. Das, who argued that the High Court judge failed to distinguish between the jurisdiction exercisable by two bodies that played a major role in Islamic law enactment, namely the Islamic Religious Council and the Syariah Court.
He said the distinction was important as the council was dealing with administrative matters while the Syariah Court dealt with legal matters.
Das said except in Kelantan and Pahang, all matters involving the Islamic law enactment were under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Religious Council and not the Syariah Court. He also told the court that the declaration was important because Lina, who is in her 40s, wanted to register her marriage under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976. – Bernama