Prayer Alert (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Lina Joy (1)

Description: FYI#25, Mar 17 2005 (updated June 23 2006)

NECF Malaysia "For Your Intercession" No. 25 – March 17, 2005 (updated May 2, 2006)

Lina Joy (1)

Brief Intro

Lina Joy, a Muslim converted to Christianity in 1998, has since been seeking her constitutional right to practise the religion of her choice. According to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Lina could not register with the Registrar of Marriage as long as ‘Islam’ is on her identity card, which means she is legally a Muslim. The National Registration Department (NRD) had, in October 1999, accepted the reason given (the change of religion) and changed her original name, Azlina Jailani, to Lina Joy.

In April 23 2001, High Court Justice Datuk Faiza Tamby Chik rejected Lina Joy’s application that to drop the word ‘Islam’ on her identity card. He said that Malays could not renounce Islam because an ethnic Malay was defined by the Constitution as "a person who professes the religion of Islam," and the jurisdiction in conversion matter lay solely in the hands of Syariah Court.

Lina is currently appealing against the 2001 High Court’s decision on the grounds that it contravened Malaysia’s constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

Three-member panel as administrative decision-maker: Justice Datuk Gopal Sri Ram, Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohamed and Datuk Arifin Zakaria

Issue to decide on: whether the NRD is right in rejecting the appellant's application under Regulation 14 of the National Registration Regulation 1990 to have the statement of a religion such as "Islam" deleted from her IC, and/or in requiring a certificate from the Syariah Court," the court said (Star Online, Dec 14 2004).

Date of judgement: September 19, 2005

Outcome: Lina's appeal was dismissed by a majority 2 to 1 on grounds that her renunciation of Islam was not confirmed by the Syariah court or any other Islamic authority and therefore the NRD could reject her application to amend her identity card. Justice Datuk Gopal Sri Ram was the minority decision who said that NRD's decision was null and void and of no effect. 

Lina Joy's counsel Datuk Dr Cyrus Dass said he would appeal to the Federal Court against the decision.  

Latest Update (June 23, 2006) For more, please click

Lina Joy was granted leave to apply to the Federal Court on April 13, 2006. The date of hearring is scheduled on June 28.

The appeal will be confined to three main issues (April 14, 2006, New Straits Times):

• Whether the NRD was legally entitled to require someone to produce a certificate or a declaration or an order from the Syariah Court before deleting "Islam" from an applicant’s identity card;

• Whether the NRD has correctly construed its powers under the National Registration Regulations 1990 to impose the above requirement when it is not expressly provided for in the regulations; and

• Whether the landmark case Soon Singh vs Perkim Kedah — which held that Syariah Courts have the authority over the civil courts to hear cases of Muslims renouncing their religion — was correctly decided.


1. Lina Joy & her family for strength to endure and the wisdom and faith to stand firm throughout the process and planning for the future. 

2. Counsel Datuk Dr Cyrus Dass and his team for perseverance, wisdom and favor as they prepare for further appeal to the Federal Court.  

3. Federal Court judges: just, wisdom and impartiality; uphold individual freedom to choose a religion. They will be people of integrity who keep to their judicial motto "Berkhidmat untuk Keadilan". They will uphold the supremacy of the Federal Constitution, have an open mind in interpreting the law, and will deliver judgment without fear or favor. 

4. Against the spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12) behind those who seek to hijack 'religion' for theor own gain, to sow discord in the community, and to tarnish the public image of Malaysia as a moderate and peaceful country.

5. The Government will act justly to diffuse any attempt to incite religious sentiment and hatred.  

6. Rational and moderate religious and civil groups willing to work together for public interests and justice. Wisdom, strength and courage to overcome any obstacle.

7. That whatever decision arrived at by the Federal Court, God will so overrule all concerned, whether human persons or supernatural powers; that righteousness and freedom, peace and harmony, and the overall wellbeing of the nation will prevail.


1. Gazette notification on Identity Card

By a gazette notification in 2000 but with retrospective effect to 1.10.1999, the National Registration Act was amended to include the religion of a person if he is a Muslim. The word "Islam" is then printed on the identity card of a person deemed to be Muslim on the criteria stated above and the Registrar will not remove that word unless the person obtains a letter from Syariah Court or the State Islamic Department and his former name is also endorsed at the back of the identity card.

By gazette notification of 26th July 2001, applicants for new identity cards (Mykad) are required to state their religions, but a person deemed to be a Muslim will have the word "Islam" endorsed on his identity card regardless of what religion he declares himself to profess, and regulation 14 is amended to exclude change of name for reason of change of religion.

2. Constitution provisions:

Article 11:1 Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion

Article 160:2 "Malay" means a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom

No clear legal process on conversion matter

3. In August 2002, the Court of Appeals ruled that only the Islamic court is qualified to determine whether a Muslim has become an apostate. These rulings make conversion of Muslims nearly impossible in practice.

4. Islamic and constitutional law professor Shad Faruqi stated two legitimate reasons requiring legal approval for conversions (Singapore Straits Times, Oct 11 2004):
(a) To prevent Muslims from evading the law by leaving their faith when caught for a religious offence
(b) Religious implications for ethnicity




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