The Book of Prof Shad.docx

For non muslims the right to opt out of ones faith

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For non-Muslims, the right to opt out of one’s faith and choose another has been regarded as an implicit part of religious liberty guaranteed by Article 11 of the Constitution. However, because of its implications for child-parent relationships, the court in the case of Teoh Eng Huat v Kadhi Pasir Mas [1990] 2 MLJ 301 held that a child below 18 must conform to the wishes of his/her parents in the matter of religious faith. Thus, a Buddhist girl of seventeen had no constitutional right to abandon her religion and embrace Islam. In relation to Muslims, the issue of apostasy is regarded as taboo, as absolutely abhorrent and as a politically explosive proposition. In the nineties the issue gained notoriety and ended up polarising the citizenry, the bureaucracy, the judiciary and the political leadership. Several types of deeply disturbing cases, many of them unresolved, have landed in the courts. There is a small number of cases of Muslims who wish to renounce Islam because of their disillusionment with the administration of justice in the syariah courts 54 or for other reasons. According to Mohamed Azam Adil, the number of such applications from those who were born Muslims is very small. Most applications before the syariah authorities involve former non- Muslims who had converted to Islam and wish to go back. 55 Some Muslims wish to convert to other religions for reasons of the heart. They wish to marry non-Muslims and are unable to do so because Muslim law in Malaysia does not allow a Muslim to marry a non-Muslim. 56 53 In re Guertin 5 Alaska 1 54 Daud Mamat v Majlis Agama Islam [2001] 2 MLJ 390 ; Mohamaed Habibullah Mahmood v Faridah Dato Talib [1992] 2 MLJ 793; Kamariah Ali lwn Kerajaan Negeri Kelantan [2002] 3 MLJ 657 55 Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil, “Law of Apostasy and Freedom of Religion in Malaysia”, Asian Journal of Comparative Law , vol. 2 Issue 1 60
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There are a few cases of children who were born Muslims but were raised as non-Muslims and on attaining maturity wish to join the religion of their adoptive parents. 57 There are many people who were born into other faiths but voluntarily converted to Islam. For various reasons, they wish to revert to their former faith. 58 Prominent in this category are people who, in order to take a Muslim spouse, had entered Islam, but who, on the dissolution of their marriage wish to return to their former faith. Some natives and orang asli who converted to Islam and who find Islam’s prohibitions not to their liking, wish to return to their former status. There are many non-Muslims who challenge the alleged conversion of their dead children or spouses to Islam by claiming that their loved ones had lived all along as non-Muslims. Some of these cases could have been avoided if the conversion process was more open and the family was informed and consulted. In the present state of affairs, there are many undignified court tussles between Muslim authorities and the deceased’s family over who has the right to bury the deceased and according to what rites? 59
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