A woman in Malaysia made a final appeal yesterday before her country’s federal court to be free to convert from Islam to the faith of her choice - Catholicism.
Lina Joy, né Azlina binti Jailani, converted from Islam to Catholicism in 1990. However, despite her declaration that she was no longer a Muslim, the Malay government refused to remove the designation "Islam" from her identity card.
Because Joy, 42, bears a Muslim identity card, she is unable to obtain a civil marriage license to a Catholic man.
In 1997, Joy applied to the National Registration Department to change her name on her identity card. She received the identity card with her new name but the designation “Islam” was still on it.
In 2000, Joy applied to the National Registration Department to delete the word "Islam" from her identity card but her application was turned down on the grounds that she was required to produce a certificate or an order from the Syariah Court or any Islamic authority, declaring her an apostate.
Two lower courts already denied jurisdiction to hear her case on the ground that she is a Muslim, leading Joy to appeal to the federal court.
The U.S.-based Becket Fund has been involved in the case. It wrote and distributed a legal opinion analyzing comparative constitutional and international law issues for Joy's appeal.
Director of International Advocacy, Angela C. Wu, also traveled to Kuala Lumpur in April to consult with Joy's domestic legal team regarding her right to profess and practice any faith.
"Should the Federal Court uphold the Court of Appeal’s decision - which imposes legal disadvantages on Lina Joy solely because of her religious status as a person who converted from Islam to Christianity - Malaysia will be in violation of bedrock principles of international human rights law," The Becket Fund argues.