Lina Joy, 43, lost the court battle to change her religion from Islam to Christianity on Wednesday when the Malaysian Federal Court ruled she should seek permission to officially change her religion from Islam to Christianity at Islamic Shariah courts.
Joy had been engaged in a legal battle for six years with Wednesday’s court ruling, Joy now again faces Shariah courts, where apostasy is mostly considered a crime punishable by heavy fines or imprisonment.
Joy was born and raised a Muslim but began to attend church in 1990. She then received baptism in 1998. Because she is still legally a Muslim, she is unable to marry her Indian fiancé in Malaysia. About 60 percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people are Muslims.
In the grand scheme of Muslim nations, Malaysia is still considered to be one of the most progressive and modern Muslim democracies. The Malaysian Constitution has been criticized as self-contradictory by analysts who point to the fact it both defends freedom of religion and declares Islam the official religion, according to the New York Times.
“After 50 years of independence it appears that Malaysia’s High Court has tipped the future of the country toward Islamization by ruling that Shariah law takes precedence over civil laws,” remarked the Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick, Washington representative of Christian Solidarity International, to The Christian Post. “The courts have ruled that there will be no ‘exit visas’ from Islam; religious freedom itself is subject to the limitations imposed upon it by Islamic law.
“It reveals the flaw of parallel legal jurisdictions - one ruled by secular civil court the other by religious law,” he added. “In essence, the High Court has sentenced Lina to life as a prisoner of her own act of conscience. Muslim by legal obligation, Christian by conviction – Lina is now an exile in her own country.”
Joy hinted that she might leave Malaysia to openly and legally practice her faith in a statement released on Thursday, according to AP.