Sarawakian Roneey anak Rebit can finally and legally call himself a Christian again, after decades of being identified as Muslim.
By Sulok Tawie
KUCHING, March 24 — It took 33 long years but Sarawakian Roneey anak Rebit can finally and legally call himself a Christian again, after decades of being identified as Muslim. The 41-year-old Bidayuh was eight when his Christian parents embraced Islam.
As a minor, he was made to follow the religion of his guardians but as an adult, he sought to return to the faith he was born into.
After a protracted battle with the authorities to remove the Islamic classification on his government-issued identity card which also states his Muslim name as Azmi Azam Shah, the High Court today ruled in his favour and ordered the National Registration Department (NRD) to issue Roneey a new MyKad that does not disclose his religion.
“It is within his constitutional rights to exercise freedom of religion,” Judge Datuk Yew Jen Kie said in her ruling that noted Rooney’s conversion was not of his volition. As such, he could not be considered a Muslim and was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Shariah court. Article 11 of the Federal Constitution provides for freedom of religion.
Roneey was not in court when the judgment was made. His lawyer Chua Kuan Ching told reporters later that the case did not involve the Shariah Court.
“This is a civil matter involving a non-Muslim exercising his constitutional rights to freedom of religion,” she said.
The lawyer explained that Roneey’s case was not bound by a precedent set by the 2007 Federal Court’s decision in the Lina Joy case as argued by the NRD.
In the 2007 judgment, the apex court ruled that only the Shariah court could allow Lina, born Azlina Jailani, to remove the word “Islam” from her identity card.
Rooney’s court case came about because the NRD insisted that he should get an order from the Shariah Court before it could drop the word “Islam” from his identity card.
Rooney had applied to the civil court for a judicial review for an order to compel the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department, Sarawak Islamic Council and the NRD to formally release from the religion of Islam so he could declare himself a Christian. Born in 1975, Roneey also wanted all records or particulars of his Islamic religion with the National Registry be changed to that of Christianity. – Malay Mail Online