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Malaysia: Sharia Courts to Judge Christian Conversions


Watch Gary Lane's interview with attorney Eugene Yapp, director of RFL Partnership, a religious rights group for more on how Christians plan to advance religious freedom in Malaysia.

A recent Malaysia Federal Court ruling that apostasy cases should be heard in Sharia courts has led to disappointment for the country's Christians, but determination from Islamic groups to prevent Muslims from converting out of their faith.

Members of the Sarawak Evangelical Christian Association (SECA) said they're troubled over the court decision because it violates freedom of religion guarantees in the country's constitution.

"We see the unfair and unjust treatments of the four appellants in their studious attempts to exercise their right to the freedom of religion in the state," said a statement released by SECA.

The four women—all converts to Christianity from Islam asked the court to officially recognize their conversions. The court refused, saying the matter should be decided by the Sharia Court of Sarawak. 

In the past, Sharia courts have not allowed conversion from the Islamic faith.

Christian groups said they'll request Sarawak legislators to amend state law to allow conversion. In response, several Islamic groups said they plan to counter Christian conversion efforts by sending more Muslims into the state.

Located in Malaysia's east, Sarawak is about 40 percent Christian. Most Christians are Chinese ethnics. Overall, Christians are about nine percent of the Malaysia population while Muslims are about 61 percent. Leaving Islam is unthinkable for most ethnic Malays who believe to be Malay is to be Muslim. 

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