July/August 2007 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Malaysia’s high court has issued a ruling that blocks a citizen’s effort to have a religious affiliation removed from her identity card.

The Malaysian Federal Court ruled 2-1 that Lina Joy could not remove Islam from her identity card after she told officials she had converted to Christianity.

The majority opinion written by the court’s chief justice, Ahmad Fairuz Abdul Halim, concluded that the woman “cannot at her own whim simply enter or leave her religion.” The chief justice instead said she must turn to a religious court to be granted permission.

The Southeastern Asian country, which borders Thailand, is majority Muslim, and Islam is recognized in the nation’s constitution as the official religion. The New York Times reported that it is rare for the country’s religious courts to allow Muslims to officially leave the religion.