A HIGH COURT in Malaysia has made a landmark ruling to allow Muslim child converts to chose their religions in adulthood.
The precedence was made yesterday at a court in the state of Sarawak, involving Azmi Mohamad Azam, also known as Roneey, who was allowed to revert back into Christianity after his parents converted him to Islam when he was a child.
Situated on Borneo Island, Sarawak is home to a plethora of indigenous groups, and Azmi, now 39, was originally from a Bidayuh Christian family that converted to Islam when he was eight.
Judge Yew Jen Kie had cited the federal constitution’s charter, which accorded freedom of religion, in allowing Azmi to embrace his beliefs now that he was a grown adult.
With the ruling, the National Registration Department had also been ordered to change Azmi’s name to Rooney Rebit. This means that a detail on his identity card, which also contained the status of his religion, would be changed to “Christian”.
According to The Star, apart from the change in his identity card, Roneey had also applied to be declared as a Christian, requiring an official letter from state religious authorities.
With a 60 percent majority Muslim population, the issues of conversion and apostasy in Malaysia are rather sticky, especially in relation to cases involving unilateral child conversions where contrasting rulings would be made by the Civil and Syariah courts.
“He does not need a Syariah Court order to release him from Islam because freedom of religion is his constitutional right and only he can exercise that right,”
“His conversion to the Muslim faith was not of his own volition, but by virtue of his parents’ conversion when he was a minor.
“He is not challenging the validity of his conversion as a minor. But having become a major, he is free to exercise his right of freedom to religion and he chose Christianity,” she was quoted saying on Thursday.
However, Azmi was not present at court during the ruling, as he is currently working abroad.