Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) Lina Joy's fight for religious freedom is turning into a fight for the right to live. The Muslim convert to Christianity and her would-be Christian husband have gone into hiding after extremists issued death threats against her for apostasy, this according to her attorney, Benjamin Dawson, who spoke in a recent interview to the New York Times. Victim of intimidation himself, Mr Dawson said that the best solution for the two was emigration.
Ms Joy, whose pre-conversion name was Azlina binti Jailani, met her fiancé, a Christian of ethnic Indian background, in 1990. Now she would like to get married and want her conversion to be officially recognised. Failing this, she would have to marry a Muslim and accept Islamic rules on marriage and inheritance.
For many years she has tried unsuccessfully to get Malaysia's National Registration Department and then the courts to remove Muslim status from her identity papers. She was thus left with an appeal to the Federal Court, which is currently vetting her application. However, in Malaysia there are two, often conflicting, legal systems, one based on Islamic law; the other, on the constitution.
The Joy case has created great tensions in Malaysia. The issue at stake is whether the constitution or Sharia should be supreme.
Dawson himself wonders whether "we go down the Islamic road, or do we maintain the secular character of the federal Constitution that has been eroding in the last 10 years".
Given the situation the lives of those who are spearheading the difficult fight for religious freedom in Malaysia are at risk, the lives of people like human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who has been an observer at the appeal trial for the Malaysian Bar Council, and whose face now appears in a 'Wanted Dead' poster.
The message that came with the photo was no less clear: "This is the face of the traitorous lawyer to Islam who supports the Lina Joy apostasy case. Distribute to our friends so they can recognize this traitor. If you find him dead by the side of the road, do not help."
Mr Malik is now seeking police protection.