Negotiating apostasy : applying to “Leave Islam” in Malaysia

Samuri, MAA and Quraishi, MM ORCID: 2014, 'Negotiating apostasy : applying to “Leave Islam” in Malaysia' , Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, 25 (4) , pp. 507-523.

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In Malaysia, freedom of religion has apparent limitations, especially when the applicant is a Muslim applying to leave Islam, where he may presently find it difficult to get the relief he desires. However, there is one Sharia legal provision in the State of Negeri Sembilan – the only state in Malaysia which allows any individual who was born a Muslim or converted to Islam to change their religion backed by reasonable cause. The applicant may apply to leave Islam at the Sharia High Court, and the court will forward the application to the Mufti Department, which in turn will arrange for a consultative session for the applicant to reconsider returning to Islam. This article critically reviews the process of application to leave Islam in the Sharia Court and Mufti Department of Malaysia. The article also provides a clear mapping of principal court decisions and legal rationale for allowing some applications to be successful whilst refusing others. Having examined the evidence, the paper is critical of the disproportionate discretion afforded to Muslim bureaucrats in the Mufti Department with regards to the process of determining an individual’s right to religion. It is argued that, in Malaysia, the power to legally determine or classify religion should be contained to the Sharia Court. Finally, this article evaluates how ‘applications to leave Islam’ are reconciled and distinguished from Islamic prohibition of ‘apostasy’ and as such is of relevance to Islamic countries beyond Malaysia.

Item Type: Article
Themes: Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society > Centre for Applied Research in Health, Welfare and Policy
Journal or Publication Title: Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0959-6410
Related URLs:
Funders: Non RCUK funded
Depositing User: Dr Muzammil Quraishi
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2015 10:01
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 19:16

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