Kamariah Ali begins her sentence today. Despite no longer declaring herself Muslim, the women was judged by an Islamic court. She had been arrested in 2005, during a massive police operation to disband the community of the “Sky Kingdom”, a sect banned by authorities.
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Two years in prison for having abandoned Islam and joined an “illegal” sect. That was the sentence handed down to Kamariah Ali by the Islamic High Court in the Malaysian state of Terengganu, a sentence effective as of today. Days before Malaysia’s general election the case has reopened debate on religious freedom in the country, where two legislations – religious and civil – increasingly encroach one another.
According to judges, the woman is an apostate. 57 year-old Kamariah was arrested in July 2005 along with another 58 companions for belonging to a small sect known as the “Sky Kingdom”. Born in the mid ‘80’s, the community grew outside state control until 1998, when its followers set up a Disneyland style games park – with buildings in the form of umbrellas, colourful boats, Greek and roman columns – at the centre of which they placed a gigantic teapot and equally massive blue vase. By this means they began proselytising among villagers and foreigners. Followers of the “sect” worshipped the teapot, which symbolised the pouring out of peace and blessings of the Sky on humanity In August of 2005, Islamic fundamentalists destroyed their deity and the structures where they gathered.
Already in 1998 Kamariah had asked a civilian court to recognise her conversion. In 2004 however, the Federal Court established that the case was not in its jurisdiction, referring it on to the Islamic Courts, which should in theory only try civilian cases n Muslim citizens. For years now religious and ethnic minorities in the country have denounced the intrusion of the Islamic courts even in cases which involve non-Muslims. The Federal Constitution guarantees the right to change religions an art. 3 declares that Islam is the nation’s official religion. Ethnic Malay citizens, the majority of the population, are however strictly tied to the definition “people who profess Islam”. Those who negates this loose their civil rights, and their conversion is not recognised by Muslim Religious Councils In reality, Muslims are not allowed to convert to other religions, because apostasy is considered one of the worst sins in Islam, punishable with death. Muslims who “renounce” Islam, re condemned to re-education camps.