G25 decries laws against apostasy

The report on ‘Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam’ working committee chairman, Asiah Abu Samah (left), G25 member Mohd Sheriff Kassim and moderator Dr Narimah Awin at the launch this morning.

PETALING JAYA: The G25 group of former senior civil servants has spoken out against apostasy laws, saying a Muslim’s decision to leave Islam is between that person and God.

In its report on “Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam” released today, G25 said various state laws penalising apostasy, whether by fines, imprisonment or rehabilitation, were inconsistent with the Federal Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.

“Article 11 (1) guarantees to every person in Malaysia, and not merely citizens or non-Muslims, three distinct rights, i.e., the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion,” the report released by Asiah Abu Samah, chairman of the report’s working committee, said.

“There is no constitutionally permitted ground to prohibit the mere profession of one’s religion.”

The group noted, however, that the right to practise is subject to general laws relating to public order, public health and morality.

Under the constitution, states are allowed to control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among Muslims.

From the Islamic perspective, G25 noted, no one can be coerced to believe in God. No one should therefore be coerced to remain in Islam, it said.

But it added: “Leaving Islam is something that is regrettable. A Muslim who wants to exercise that choice should be persuaded to remain within the fold.

“However, if he persists to forsake Islam, it is between him and God. There is no earthly punishment provided in the Quran.”

It said a democratic society would cease to exist if there was no respect for freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

It noted that Malaysia used to have clear laws to validate a person’s conversion out of Islam.

“These laws have now been repealed and replaced with vague legal provisions in most states” that allow Shariah High Courts to declare that a person is no longer a Muslim.

Only Negeri Sembilan, it said, had an elaborate process for renouncing Islam.

Also present at the launch of the report were Suhakam commissioner Madeline Berma, Parent Action Group for Education chairman Noor Azimah Rahim, prominent thinker Chandra Muzaffar and Muslim activist Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa.