Apostates Forced to Appeal to Sharia Court - Radical

Apostates Forced to Appeal to Sharia Court

A ray of hope that had been kindling for four Malaysians wanting to leave Islam was quickly snuffed out on February 26 as the federal court in Sarawak (in East Malaysia) rejected their appeal. The four men requested approval from the civil court to be officially declared as Christians. The court decided that the state sharia court has jurisdiction on issues of apostasy. This is a case of religious persecution in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s apostasy laws are clear. Muslims cannot change their religion. All Malaysians carry an identification card, which serves as a driver’s license, travel document, and more. Religion is a requirement on the card. For Muslims, the card is an indication that they are subject to sharia laws.

Religious Persecution in Malaysia

While the civil court agreed to hear the appeal of the four men who wished to have their identification cards changed to indicate their adherence to Christianity, when the hearing date arrived, the appeal was quickly denied. If they want to push the matter further, they must hire a sharia lawyer and take the matter up with the sharia courts. It is highly unlikely that any sharia court in Malaysia would grant permission for apostates to officially change their religion. The four men could also face punishment from the sharia courts if they push the issue further.

Three of the men converted to Islam in order to marry, but two divorced and one is a widower. They wish to officially leave Islam but have found themselves stuck in a religion they do not want to follow. The fourth man, Syarifah Nooraffyzza Wan Hose, was born into a Muslim family but left Islam to follow Jesus in 2009. He now boldly seeks official recognition of his Christian faith.

It has been a long road for these four men. The high court rejected them and now find themselves rejected again by the federal court. The only other option is to face sharia court with its unique laws, which is a daunting prospect.

Pray for Christian Malaysians

Many Christians in Malaysia struggle with these laws. Ethnic Malays and other Muslims are under sharia law and not allowed to leave Islam. If a Muslim decides to follow Christ, then the government often forces them to maintain their Muslim identification cards. Requesting a change draws attention and could result in persecution. Islamic re-education centers pressure Muslims sent to the center to return to Islam.

These four men made bold moves to have their true religion recognized legally. They are still being subjected to religious laws that do not pertain to them. Sometimes Malaysia is known for its supposed religious freedom and tolerance of many religions, but for former Muslims, there is no freedom. There is no legal choice.

Please pray for these four men as they must figure out their next steps. Pray for justice and true religious freedom for all Malaysian citizens.

Pray also for other former Muslims who struggle with these laws. Often, they cannot be legally married to Malaysians who have another religious status on their identification cards. They face many issues because the government refuses to accept that they have changed religions. Pray for our brothers and sisters to faithfully follow Christ even amidst these challenges.

Harper McKay is a global worker in Southeast Asia who has served as a guest contributor for Radical covering missions and work among the unreached.


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