Apostasy ruling not a case of religion vs religion but of jurisdiction, says archbishop

Man pleads not guilty to intimidation, causing hurt to wife.

KUCHING, Feb 27: Catholic Archbishop Most Reverend Fr Simon Poh calls on all Sarawakians to understand the nature of today’s Federal Court apostasy decision which is not a case of Christianity versus Islam.

He said it was a case disputing which court has the jurisdiction to make judgment on conversion out of Islam.

“My dearest friends, let us understand this case carefully. This case is not the church versus Islam but on the dispute of who has the jurisdiction on allowing a Muslim to ‘murtad’, either the Mahkamah Syariah or the Civil Court,” said Poh in a statement today.

He agreed with the judgement passed by the five-member Federal Court panel of judges that the case should be heard in the Syariah Court.

“Naturally, since we have the Mahkamah Syariah to govern the Muslims, the Mahkamah Syariah has the power to grant the Muslims the leave from Islam according to the Law.

“Therefore, we did not lose this case nor did we win it. What is important now is, with this is now clear, where do we want to go with it,” said Poh.

He reminded all that the court, whether Syariah or Civil court, is only there to apply the law.

Meanwhile, he lauded the fact that earlier in the day at the Federal Court when he was pursued by some Muslims, it was also Muslims who helped him out of the situation.

“I am sure that you heard the news. Just an assurance that I am fine. There was a commotion in court and the crowd was getting rowdy after the judgement.

“Many good Muslims were there to escort me safely out of the courthouse, including Puan Zabariah (Matali), a personal friend who is the Director of Kuching Islamic Information Centre in Kuching.

“As the Muslim groups became rowdier and louder, a group of Muslims and others escorted me safely to my vehicle pick up at the road side,” said Poh.

Poh was jeered at by a group of rowdy youths when he was making his exit at the end of the Federal Court hearing today.

The Federal Court ruled that four apostasy cases are to be heard in the Syariah Court and struck out the appeal to have the cases heard in the civil court.

The four persons filing the appeal included a Malay Muslim who has converted to Christianity and three other Muslim converts who wanted to return to Christianity after their spouses passed away or following divorce.

Poh also pointed out that he was in the court room and could bear testimony that the judges were fair.

“By the way, I was at the court hearing yesterday and I testify that the judges were very neutral and fair,” he said.

He said the next thing Christians should do was to pray that the lawmakers would table a just law to deal with the issue. — DayakDaily