KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A Malaysian court on Wednesday rejected a Muslim woman’s appeal to convert back to Christianity, the latest case to test the limits of religious freedom in the country.
The Court of Appeal threw out Noorashikin Lim Abdullah’s bid to renounce Islam on technical grounds _ that she used her original Chinese name in her suit, her lawyer Edmond Bon said.
The court said the appellant was not legally recognized because her Chinese name _ Lim Yoke Khoon _ no longer existed following her conversion to Islam in 1994, Bon told The Associated Press.
A Chinese judge on the three-man panel dissented, he said.
“The court rejected the appeal on technical grounds, not on merit. We believe they are afraid to hear the case” because of the sensitivity of the issue, Bon said.
Lim, 35, is likely to appeal to the country’s top civil court, he added.
A rising number of disputes about religious conversions have sparked anxiety among minorities _ Buddhists, Christians and Hindus _ because courts almost always rule against people seeking to leave Islam, which is Malaysia’s official religion.
Lim married a Muslim man in 1994, converted to Islam and obtained a new identity card with her Muslim name. But she divorced three years later and wants to convert back to Christianity, Bon said.
In 2003, she applied to change her name and religion on her identity card but the National Registration Department told her to she must get permission from the Islamic Shariah Court to renounce Islam, Bon said.
Lim turned to the high court seeking a declaration that she was no longer a Muslim but the court ruled in 2006 that it had no jurisdiction to hear the case, Bon said.
Malaysia has a dual court system with civil courts for non-Muslims and Shariah courts for Muslims.
Ethnic Chinese and Indians, who account for more than 30 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people, have complained that court decisions in religious disputes favor Muslims _ who account for more than 60 percent and are mainly ethnic Malay.