Friday 9 November 2012

Sisters In Islam (SIS) : ‘Islam is not a one way street’

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 ― Freedom of religion must also include the liberty to change one’s religion, a Muslim women’s group said today following the uproar sparked by a speech by PKR lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar on the issue.

In a press statement to the media, Sisters in Islam (SIS) asked how Muslims demanding freedom for potential Islamic converts to enter the religion could at the same time deny exit to those looking to leave Islam.

“Faith by compulsion may lead to hypocrisy,” the group said.

When contacted by The Malaysian Insider today, SIS programme manager Suri Kempe clarified that the NGO is not asking for anyone to “actively leave Islam”, merely the freedom to leave the religion for those who no longer believed.

“Islam is not a one way street,” Suri said.

The PKR vice president’s statement at a public forum entitled “Islamic State: Which version, whose responsibility?” in Subang Jaya last Saturday, has resulted in attacks from several religious hawks and Umno politicians suggesting that her remarks meant she supported Muslims renouncing Islam and turning “murtad” or apostate.

Nurul Izzah has since lodged a report with Selangor religious officials to clarify the matter, and will take legal action against Umno-owned newspapers Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian as well as a number of blogs for allegedly twisting her statement.

Apostasy and freedom of religion is a contentious issue in Malaysia, where the Malays — who make up 60 per cent of the 28 million population — are constitutionally defined to also be Muslims.

While freedom of religion is guaranteed for non-Muslims under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, all Malays are Muslims under the law.

Islamic laws forbid Muslims from renouncing their religion and the country’s Islamic legal system has provisioned that a state must impose mandatory punishment for apostasy.

The country’s dual system of both Islamic law and federal law has resulted in controversies to the freedom of religion under Article 11 when Muslims try to convert to other religions.

The prominent cases include Lina Joy (Azalina Jailani), Revathi Massosai and Nyonya Tahir (Wong Ah Kiu).

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