Saturday, January 13, 2007

Lina Joy: Crucial test on religious freedom

Elisia Yeo Jan 12, 07 2:22pm

MALAYSIA's status as a moderate Muslim country is being put to the test in a milestone court decision that may allow Muslims to renounce their faith, a move considered one of Islam's greatest sins.

The nation's highest court is to rule on an appeal by Lina Joy, a convert from Islam to Christianity who for a decade has been locked in a battle with the government to have her decision legally recognised.

The appeal brings to a head passionate arguments about whether Muslims can renounce Islam at will and, ultimately, whether Malaysia is a secular country or is morphing into a conservative Islamic state under religious Sharia law.

"Our country is at a crossroads pending the outcome of this landmark case," Joy's counsel, Benjamin Dawson, told AFP.

"This decision is pivotal to the direction the country will take."

The 42-year-old woman at the centre of the case is a member of Malaysia's majority ethnic Malay community, who make up 60 percent of the population of more than 26 million.

Born a Muslim and called Azlina Jailani, she says her introduction to Christianity in 1990 changed her life for the better.


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