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No plan to amend Article 11: Nazri

KUALA LUMPUR, 23 Feb 2009: The Dewan Rakyat was told today that the Federal Court’s decision in the case involving Azlina Jailani or Lina Joy showed that a Muslim cannot renounce Islam at will.

As such, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said, the government had no plan to amend Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution in the wake of the court’s decision.

He said if the article was amended to incorporate provision, it would allow individuals the freedom to change their religions, which could create chaos and jeopardise the position of Islam as the official religion in the country.

“The religious freedom as provided for under Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution cannot be interpreted too widely to the extent of granting Muslims the freedom to choose and change their religion at will.

“If a Muslims wants to renounce Islam, the person should obtain an order or a declaration from the Syariah Court,” he said in reply to Zulkifli Noordin (PKR-Kulim Bandar Baru) during question time today.

Zulkifli wanted to know whether the government had any plan to amend Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution to incorporate the right to change religion.

Nazri said the National Registration Department’s action in Lina Joy’s case cannot be regarded as violating the Federal Constitution. Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution stipulates that state law and federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among Muslims, he said.

He said at the moment, 10 states had their own enactments to control and restrict propagation of other religions among Muslims. The states are Terengganu, Kelantan, Selangor, Perak, Melaka, Kedah, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Johor and Perlis.

The Federal Court in May 2007 dismissed an appeal by Azalina, who claimed to have renounced Islam to embrace Christianity 17 years earlier, to have the word “Islam” removed from her identity card.               

The court ruled that Azalina, who had taken the name Lina Joy, had to obtain a certificate of apostasy from the Syariah Court before the National Registration Department could drop the word “Islam” from her identity card. — Bernama

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