08/24/2006, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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Church that baptised Lina Joy, convert from Islam, is reported

The report claims that the Muslim's baptism was "illegal". The Federal Court that should pass sentence on the woman's conversion is taking its time: "This is very sensitive issue." Meanwhile, Islamic blogs are calling on people to pray for a "victory of Islam" in the country.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Malaysia's Federal Court has said it intends to take its time before passing sentence in the appeal of Lina Joy because the issue is "sensitive and needs careful examination." Lina Joy's appeal to have her conversion to Christianity officially recognized has been in the Federal Court for months. Meanwhile, pressure by Islamic extremists is intensifying daily: they are intent on preventing a positive outcome of the case that may pave the way for a "flight from Islam" by other believers. Recently, for example, the parish where Lina Joy was baptized learned it has a police record.

The parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields, where Joy was baptized, were informed about a police report against their parish. According to the Harakah fortnightly paper dated August 16-31, a man called Taib Hisham reported the church, claiming that Joy's baptism went against Article 11 of the Constitution that says: "The law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam." Taib was supported in his initiative by the youth wing of the Islamic Party of Malaysia (known as PAS) and Islamic NGOs. Article 11 also guarantees religious freedom.

Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, Chief Justice and member of the Federal Court, said he needed time, together with his colleagues, to look into submissions by all the parties carefully because "the issue was sensitive".  The judges said they had to consider the submissions of every non-governmental organisation (NGO). Those ranging themselves on Joy's side include the Malaysian Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism; the Malaysian Women Lawyers Association and Sisters in Islam.

On 3 July, the Federal Court put off its verdict indefinitely. Lina Joy converted to Christianity in 1998 and asked the National Registration Department and then the Court of Appeal to drop the word 'Islam' from her identity card (that notes one's faith). She was refused in both cases and now she is waiting for the verdict of the federal Court. De facto, two legal systems coexist in the country: one based on Islam; the other, on the constitution. And the two are often in conflict

Islamic conservatives fear that if the judges allow her to leave Islam, this would open the floodgates to many other requests of Muslims wanting to change their faith. So while they wait for the sentence, they are taking their "precautions".

Local sources said no effort is being spared to convince the Muslim community to take up a stand "in defence of Islam". For example, several blogs and websites, exempt from censorship, are calling on people to pray and fast for a verdict that "spells a victory for Islam" in Malaysia.

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Muslim lawyers set up movement to "defend" Islam
14/07/2006
Lina Joy affair sparks apostasy debate among Muslims
12/06/2007
Muslim students and clerics against civil courts
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Death threats against Lina Joy, fighting for her life and religious freedom
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