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Appeals court denies woman's leave bid to renounce Islam

It says only the Shariah Court has exclusive jurisdiction to determine issues of renunciation as per Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution.

Bernama
2 minute read
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The Court of Appeal, housed in Istana Kehakiman or the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya. Photo: Bernama
The Court of Appeal, housed in Istana Kehakiman or the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya. Photo: Bernama

The Court of Appeal today dismissed a woman's appeal to obtain leave to commence judicial review to challenge the Shariah Court's decision that disallowed her to renounce Islam.

A three-member panel chaired by justice Azizah Nawawi, in a unanimous decision, ruled that only the Shariah Court has the exclusive jurisdiction to determine issues of renunciation as per Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution.

"The Shariah High Court is competent to hear the matter. We agree that the High Court judge at the Civil Court has no jurisdiction to review the decision of the Shariah Court.

"The Civil and Shariah Courts are two separate legal systems, and the Shariah Court is not an inferior tribunal subject to judicial review. In conclusion, the appeal is dismissed, and the decision of the Civil High Court judge is affirmed," she said when delivering the decision via online proceedings.

Justice Azizah, who sat with justices See Mee Chun and Azizul Azmi Adnan, dismissed the application with no order as to cost.

Lawyer Fahri Azzat represented the woman, while senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly and federal counsel Mohammad Sallehuddin Md Ali appeared for the four respondents.

The 33-year-old woman, who was born to a Muslim convert father and a Muslim mother, is appealing against the June 15 High Court ruling dismissing her application for leave to challenge the Shariah Court's dismissal of her legal suit.

In her judicial review filed in the High Court on March 4 last year, the woman named the Shariah Court of Appeal, the Shariah High Court, the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council, and the government of Malaysia as respondents.

She is seeking at least 12 court orders as part of her lawsuit, including declarations that she is no longer a Muslim and that she is entitled to profess her religion of Confucianism and Buddhism.

She is also asking the Civil High Court to declare the decisions by the Shariah High Court and Shariah Court of Appeal, which rejected her bid to be recognised as no longer a Muslim, as illegal, unlawful, and void.

On July 27, 2020, the Shariah High Court dismissed the woman's bid to be declared no longer a Muslim and ordered her to go through "istitabah", or repentance and Islamic classes, and further akidah counselling.

She then brought the matter to the Shariah Court of Appeal, which also rejected her appeal on Dec 8, 2021.

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