[15 November 2012 Update: Kindly note the Addendum in the Comment section below (regarding Johore’s Enactment) posted by Edmund Bon on 13 November 2012. The Addendum is to be read with this post.]
State Islamic laws of Perlis, Selangor, Perak, Penang, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan and Johore expressly provide that the relevant State authorities may declare individuals as having renounced the religion and therefore no longer Muslims.
One should distinguish between what the Islamic law in some States is from what it ought to be. This post is about the former, not the latter.
In Perlis, Selangor, Perak, Penang, Malacca and Negeri Sembilan, the relevant State laws provide that the Syariah High Court shall in its civil jurisdiction, hear and determine actions and proceedings that relate to, among others, a declaration that a person is no longer a Muslim and/or a declaration that a deceased person was a Muslim or otherwise at the time of his death. See:
Section 61, Perlis’ Enactment No. 4/2006 (wef 1.1.2010)
Section 61, Selangor’s Enactment No. 1/2003 (wef 1.9.2003)
Section 50, Perak’s Enactment No. 4/2004 (wef 1.6.2005)
Section 61, Penang’s Enactment No. 4/2004 (wef 1.1.2006)
Section 49, Malacca’s Enactment No. 7/2002 (wef 14.6.2003)
Section 61, Negeri Sembilan’s Enactment No. 10/2003 (wef 1.3.2004)
In Johore, section 141(2), Enactment No. 14/1978 (wef 16.2.1979) is a mandatory provision wider in scope than those of the aforesaid States and reads as follows:
Whoever is aware of a Muslim person has converted out of the Islamic Religion shall forthwith report the matter to the Kadi by giving all necessary particulars and the Kadi shall announce that such person has been converted out of the Islamic Religion and shall register accordingly.
Some may argue that these State enactments overreach the State List and are inconsistent with Article 11 of the Federal Constitution. But laws stand as being in force until repealed by the legislature or annulled by the courts.
Again, this post serves only to highlight the applicable laws, not what they ought to be (or not to be), or whether the same are unconstitutional (or otherwise).
In essence therefore, at least seven States in Malaysia provide a legal avenue for individuals to renounce the religion of Islam. Based on the current laws cited above and to the extent of the same, it is not inaccurate to say that there is freedom of religion for Muslims in the country.
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