A couple of days ago, Malaysia’s highest court rejected Lina Joy’s appeal to have her conversion from Islam to Christianity recognised and to remove the word “Islam” from her identity card. It decided that only the Muslim Sharia court could recognise such conversions, but under Sharia law, conversion is illegal.
Outside the court, 200 protestors shouted “"Allah-o-Akbar" (God is great) when the ruling was announced. "You can't at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another," said Malaysia’s Chief Judge, Ahmad Fairuz. However, it’s now six years since Loy changed her religious affiliation – hardly whim and fancy. She has had death threats, as has a Muslim lawyer who took on her case.
It’s similar to the case of Maria, who is so afraid of her Christian identity being discovered that she kept it a secret, except that her family were demanding her Christian boyfriend convert to Islam before they got married.
I understand these stories demonstrate the tensions that exist within a country, nominally a secular state, where one religion, Islam, is determined to hold onto, and increase, its power. People like Lina and Maria are pawns in the game.
But it does seem weird. Lina is not a Muslim. She has converted to Christianity. However, as long as the courts continue to maintain that she is Muslim on paper, people chant slogans, and are euphoric that she has not been allowed to convert. It’s as though these people are more interested in making her life as miserable as possible than in winning the battle for her soul.