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Malaysia rules Muslim can convert to Christianity

by Hannah Tooley

This judgement has now established a precedent in Malaysia, a country where religious conversions are often highly controversial.

The verdict has reaffirmed the right of freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by law under Article 11 of Malaysia's constitution.

2010 Population and Housing Census

61.3 % Muslim

19.8 % Buddhist 

9.2 % Christian

6.3 % Hindu

1.3 % traditional Chinese religions

Rooney Rebit argued in court that his Christian faith was a human right, and Judge Yew Ken Jie, said: "he is free to exercise his right of freedom to religion, and he chose Christianity."

According to reports Mr Rebit was born into a Christian family that converted to Islam when he was young.

His Muslim name was Azmi Mohamad Azam Shah, however in 1999 he converted to Christianity and was baptised.

The judge ruled that he was underage when he became a Muslim and therefore he would not be considered an officially professed Muslim.

However she went on to say that when he chose to become a follower of Jesus at 24, he was mature and had made a conscious decision.

Case of religious conversion have often been controversial as they can go through two systems, the judicial courts as well as Shari'ah tribunals - these tend not to grant permission to convert but instead punish apostates.

Those that ask to change religion are often fined, jailed or sent to counselling.

However in the case of Rooney Rebit he was not challenging a conversion, but had asked to be officially declared a Christian and to change his name and religion on his identity card.

Judge Yew Ken Jie said this case was about the right to religious freedom: "He does not need a Shari'ah court order to release him from Islam, because freedom of religion is his constitutional right, and only he can exercise that right."

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speak to Beth Fuller from Open Doors here:

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