Apostasy: Clear laws and guidelines needed for converts, says PH

Chong (front, centre), Baru (front left) and Fidzuan (front right) are seen at the press conference.

KUCHING, March 2: The state Pakatan Harapan (PH) is calling for clear laws and Standard Operating Procedures for Muslim converts wishing to leave the religion following the recent Federal Court’s judgement.

In a joint statement today, the Opposition alliance in the state has urged Jabatan Islam Sarawak (JAIS) to come up with very clear guidelines and requirements for those wishing to leave Islam willingly to follow so that the letter of release can be issued.

“It must be clear that this is a legal issue rather than a notion of religious conflict and hatred. PH reveres the concept of respect and that Malaysians should live in harmony despite their diverse religious affiliations,” said state PH chairman Chong Chieng Jen.

The Federal Court made the decision on Tuesday that the Sarawak Syariah Court has the power to hear apostasy cases on Tuesday.

“The government must also seriously consider amending the relevant state laws to provide for the requirements for the letter of release.

“Cases of those who want to leave Islam are mainly the converts who embrace Islam for marriage purposes when one of the spouses is Muslim. Over time such as unforeseen divorce issues, they opted to revert to their original faith,” added Chong,

PH has suggested that there must be clear procedures for two categories; for those who have evidential documents to prove they are no longer practising Muslims; and those who have the intention of leaving the Islamic faith.

Also, PH said there must be clear guidelines for lawyers who will be allowed to appear in the Syariah Court.

“We can foresee that many Syariah lawyers will be reluctant to take on apostasy cases for fear of being branded as ‘mermurtadkan Melayu’ and the authorities must consider allowing non-Muslim lawyers to appear in the Syariah Courts,” Chong said.

PH said that Sarawak has no official re;igion, as freedom of religion, which means freedom to choose one’s religious belief, had been agreed to under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

The late Assistant Minister of Islamic Affairs Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman had reportedly said in 2011 that “Sarawak practices religious freedom where each and every individual can choose the religion of his or her choice”.

PH also stressed that the recent hearing in the Federal Court is non-political.

“(PKR chairman) Baru Bian was merely helping the four persons in his capacity as an advocate to exercise their rights to choose their own religion. From the facts of the cases, it is clear that he had nothing to do with their decisions to leaven the Islamic faith and those who accuse him or having a ‘Christian agenda’ are making up lies for their own purposes.

“We condemn those who are trying to politicise Baru’s role in these cases by accusing PH or not respecting the Islamic religion. Our manifesto clearly affirms our position on Islam,” said the statement jointly issued by Chong, Baru and Amanah Sarawak chairman Fidzuan Zaidi. — DayakDaily