Four former Muslims are seeking to have their conversion to Christianity legally recognized by the government courts in the majority Muslim nation of Malaysia.
Jenny Peter, Salina Jau, and Tiong Choo were converted to Islam through marriage, while Syarifah Nooraffyzza was born a Muslim. In order to formally renounce the faith, Peter, Jau, and Choo signed “statutory declarations” that they intended to leave Islam and were forced into counseling mandated by the government. Syarifah is forbidden to leave the faith, as the Malaysian Constitution prevents ethnic Malays from converting, according to Morning Star News.
The highest court in Malaysia will hear their case and will decide whether to allow them to legally switch their faith and names on their national identification.
The appeals court has stated that they are "still Muslims on papers," and that they need to get "letters of apostasy" from a Sharia Court, which is extremely difficult, as Islam is the official religion in Malaysia.
The lawyer for the four Christians, Baru Bian, has stated that his clients have a difficult road ahead, but added that "since religious freedom or right is a fundamental right under the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, there cannot be any hindrances, procedural or otherwise, for a person to profess any religion of his/her choice."
"We pray for a favorable outcome, because there are many who are caught in such a quandary and are longing for a way out and freedom to choose and profess the religion of their choice," Bian told the press in a statement. "Only an order from the court can direct the Federal Registry to comply with the appellants’ applications that their status be changed in the Registry’s data system, and consequently their IDs be changed as well."
A ruling is not expected anytime soon.
In Malaysia, people who wish to marry a Malay citizen must convert to Islam, and all ethnic Malays are considered Muslims when born in the country. To convert to a different religion, they must apply through the Sharia Courts. The civil courts often refuse to take up religious matters, making it difficult for people who wish to leave Islam.
Peter, Jau, Choo, and Syarifah’s case is considered important to the cause of religious liberty in Malaysia as radical Islam is on the rise, leading to government persecution of Malays who wish to convert to Christianity.