PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has dismissed women’s rights group Sisters in Islam’s (SIS) appeal to challenge a fatwa against them imposed by the Selangor religious authorities nine years ago.
In a split decision, Justices Has Zanah Mehat and Che Ruzima Ghazali held that there were no merits in SIS’ appeal. Justice Gunalan Muniandy dissented.
SIS had sought to quash the 2014 fatwa by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) stating that the women’s group subscribes to liberalism and religious pluralism and deviates from the teachings of Islam.
Delivering the majority ruling, Ruzima said that a fatwa made by the state religious authorities was not “conclusive” and can be amended or revoked at any time.
“The applicant (SIS) can always request the fatwa committee to relook into the decision, and provide evidence to show they do not subscribe to the ideologies of pluralism and liberalism,” he added.
The judge also said that the fatwa issued on July 31, 2014 did not impose any sentence against Muslims in the state who are found to be in breach of it.
Ruzima pointed out that although the fatwa states that items related to SIS were subject to being seized, the power to execute the seizure lies with the home minister.
“The fatwa only requested MCMC (the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) to block websites that contravene Islamic teaching but did not request powers to be given to them by the federal government to do so.
“The fatwa merely tells Muslims to ‘repent’ (taubat) if they have subscribed to ideologies that are against Islam,” said Ruzima.
Gunalan, in his dissenting judgment, said that the High Court had erred in its decision to dismiss SIS’ legal challenge on Aug 27, 2019.
He said that SIS was registered as an entity, and that, unlike individuals, organisations cannot “profess” a religion.
“There was no basis by the High Court to lift the corporate veil and make a finding that the controlling minds in the entity are Muslim and thus (the entity) can be considered as professing Islam,” he said.
The court made no order as to costs.
The court, however, granted an interim stay to prevent execution by state religious authorities of the fatwa pending an appeal by SIS to the Federal Court.
SIS’ lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said a formal stay application will be filed within one week.
Lawyer Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar represented the Selangor fatwa committee and Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais).
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