Monday, May 28, 2007

Critical court case in Malaysia on Islam and state

Malaysia's highest court, the Federal Court in Kuala Lumpur, will soon (perhaps even May 30) have to decide if Islamic Shariah law applies to someone who was registered as Muslim but has chosen to renounce Islam or convert to another faith (in the case of Lina Joy, Christianity). Muslim law finds itself in a Catch-22 in trying to have it both ways as a secular country and a Muslim country, since Shariah law is supposed to pre-empt secular law for Muslims. The AP story by Eileen Ng is here, and was reprinted in The Washington Times today.

Americans in technical careers have often traveled to Malaysia for business (computer manufacturers have always sent a lot of trainers there), and one friend of mine had major clients there when he ran an ISP. Kuala Lumpur was made to look like a slick city in the 1999 film "Entrapment" but a recent independent film "I Don't Want to Sleep Alone" (shown at the Andy Warhol Museum recently) shows the side of poor people in a city sharply divided by wealth. Nearby Singapore, famous for its economic boom, is a secular independent city-state with very conservative social values based on secular philosophy.

Update: June 4, 2007

The woman lost her court case and may leave Malaysia. The story on May 31 in by Eileen Ng is "Christian Convert May Leave Malaysia", here.

Some of the philosophical thinking may include the notion that a person owes a cultural loyalty to the religious entity or family that reared her, regardless of her own desires or beliefs or of a more abstract idea of right and wrong.

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