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Press Statement: Sarawak High Court judgment defends Freedom of Religion in Malaysia

Sisters in Islam (SIS) applauds the decision by judge Datuk Yew Jen Kie declaring Roneey Rebit a Christian and ordering the National Registration Department (NRD) to change his religion from Islam to Christianity on his identity card. This judgment reaffirms the supremacy of the Federal Constitution, which under Article 11 defends every Malaysian citizen’s right to freedom of religion.

Freedom of religion is a right of every citizen of Malaysia and enshrined in our Constitution. As such, it is our duty to honour these rights equally and fairly, without regard to race or religion.  Where our legal system provides for the right of conversion, it should not be the case that in reality the practice of these rights are denied, or made nearly impossible, to certain religions or race.

Protecting the sanctity of our Constitution and the law, and acting in the interest of our country and its people, do not conflict with the principles of Islam as Islam is a religion of compassion and tolerance. The Qur’an is clear and consistent in its recognition of the freedom of religion. Surah al-Baqarah (2:256), “Let there be no compulsion in religion” has been widely interpreted to mean that no one can be compelled to embrace Islam.

Surah an-Nisa (4:137), which reads, “Indeed, those who have believed then disbelieved, then believed, then disbelieved, and then increased in disbelief – never will Allah forgive them, nor will He guide them to a way,” shows Islam’s acceptance of freedom of religion with no punishment mentioned for anyone converting out of Islam.

SIS welcomes the judgment by Datuk Yew Jen Kie allowing Rooney Rebit to change his religion from Islam to Christianity, because faith cannot be imposed through enforcement. Instead, faith is contingent upon free will. Islam itself means submission to the will of God – not the will of men. This judgment is a reminder to all Malaysians of their right to practice their faith without coercion from the state.

Sisters in Islam
28 March 2016