Home Civil Society Voices High Court ruling on Sisters in Islam threatens rights to freedom of...

High Court ruling on Sisters in Islam threatens rights to freedom of expression, religion, belief

A royal commission of inquiry into the judiciary is needed

Join us on Telegram and Instagram for the latest.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) expressed concern over the decision given on 27 August 2019 by the Malaysian High Court that a fatwa issued against the women’s organisation, Sisters in Islam, should be referred to a Sharia court.

The High Court used as a basis Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution, which states that secular courts do not have jurisdiction over matters pertaining to Islam.

The ICJ called on the Malaysian authorities to ensure that custom, tradition, and religion should not be used as a justification to undermine human rights, including women’s human rights.

In 2014, the Selangor Fatwa Council issued a fatwa declaring the Sisters in Islam a “deviant organisation”.

For many years, Sisters in Islam has been promoting more egalitarian interpretations of Islamic laws with the aim of ending discrimination against women and achieving equality in the Muslim family.

“For women to fully exercise their religious freedom, they must be able to retain or adopt the religion of their choice, and they must be able to continue belonging to this religion without being discriminated against within the religion,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s senior international legal adviser.

The ICJ stressed that under international law, states have an obligation to protect people who are prevented from exercising their religious freedom by private actors, such as their own religious communities.

“The Malaysian government, including the judiciary, has the obligation to protect groups like Sisters in Islam when they face persecution from within their religious communities for propounding alternative views about their religion,” said Emerlynne Gil.

Furthermore, the ICJ had previously underscored in a 2019 briefing paper on the challenges to freedom of religion or belief in Malaysia, the tensions emerging from jurisdictional disputes between civil courts, which apply federal and state laws, and Sharia courts, which apply Islamic laws.

READ MORE:  Syariah Criminal Code (I): Towards one family, two systems?

In 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, in reviewing the performance of Malaysia, voiced its own concern over “the existence of a parallel legal system of civil law and multiple versions of Sharia law, which have not been harmonised in accordance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw)”.

The Cedaw Committee concluded that this leads to a gap in the protection of women against discrimination, including on the basis of their religion”.

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.
Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x