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Spotlight on Malaysia’s Religious Freedom Restrictions

Photo: Engin Akyurt

(Juicy Ecumenism) by Scott Morgan  Several nations are known, even outside the small company of human rights advocates, for violating the rights of its people to religious freedom and for persecuting believers. But there are other nations, also oppressing people of faith, which are not as well known. Malaysia is one of the latter.

China and Nigeria have achieved wide notoriety for their actions suppressing freedom of religion or belief, due in large part to work by human rights and religious freedom activists. But not much has been in the news about Malaysia.

Malaysia is one of those countries that doesn’t generate the interest of most media outlets. There are too many other crisis spots or issues. It is a matter of great interest to Malaysians whose freedom of religion is being violated, though. And therefore it should be of interest to all who care about Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). (This is now the chic term, by the way, used by the UN and other cognoscenti: Freedom of Religion or Belief aka FoRB. You’re not supposed to just say “religious freedom” anymore!)

The recent release of reports from three different entities regarding FoRB in Malaysia. Even though Malaysia appears to have good constitutional provision for religious freedom, these reports have provided new documentation of Malaysia’s unwillingness to implement those constitutional freedoms and documents oppressive actions against Christians and others.

First there was the release of a briefing paper by the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) in March of last year, 2019. The paper, “Challenges to Freedom of Religion or Belief in Malaysia” was sponsored by the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Part of a follow up to the visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights to Malaysia in September 2017, the ICJ report focused on six key issues. These issues concern the implementation in practice of Malaysia’s constitutional provisions, federal laws, and Islamic laws in the context of freedom of religion or belief:

  • discrimination against religious minorities
  • limitations on the rights of children relating to personal matters governed by Islamic law
  • discrimination against persons who wish to change or adopt a new religion
  • criminalization and prosecution of proselytism among Muslims
  • prohibitions on the use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims
  • relationship with freedom of expression and the crime of sedition

The second document, is the US State Department’s annual report on International Religious Freedom (IRF), issued in June 2020. The IRF report covers events that took place in Malaysia in 2019. Once again we have a report that doesn’t paint a rosy picture regarding the situation on the ground. Some of the documented concerns of the US Government include the universal conversion of children by one parent without the permission of the other, the disappearance of three Christians along with a Muslim activist, and the lack of respect for the rights of religious minorities.

Noted in the State Department report is the conflict between Malaysia’s civil law and Sharia (Islamic law). The IRF report says, “The government maintains a parallel legal system, with certain civil matters for Muslims covered by sharia. The relationship between sharia and civil law remains unresolved in the legal system.” Elsewhere, it adds, “When civil and sharia jurisdictions intersect, civil courts continue largely to give deference to sharia courts, creating situations where sharia judgements affect non-Muslims.”

Also during the month of June, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, (USCIRF) issued a press release urging the Malaysian authorities along with those of Thailand to protect Rohingya refugees who are currently stranded at sea after fleeing from persecution in Burma. This minority Muslim community has been seeking refuge in Bangladesh for some time, but the country was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people that were driven from their homes. Therefore, the Rohingya turned their eyes towards Thailand and Malaysia.

USCIRF Commissioner, Johnnie Moore, was quoted in the release stating, “The Rohingya people have faced unimaginable horrors in their home country of Burma.”  And Commission Chair, Gayle Manchin said, “Thai and Malaysian authorities must recognize their obligations under international law to refugees fleeing ethnic and religious violence.” She continued, “USCIRF urges them to grant refuge to Rohingya Muslims fleeing ethnic cleansing in Burma. If not, hundreds could perish at sea.”

This is not the only action that USCIRF has taken regarding Malaysia. In its annual report for 2020 the Commission recommends that Malaysia be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department for the same problems expressed in the reports of the ICJ and State’s own IRF report. It has also made the recommendation that the country be placed on the Special Watch List for its treatment of Religious Minorities.

Although this is a brief snapshot into the issue of FoRB in Malaysia, it is good to see that in spite of the lack of press notoriety on the nation’s violations of religious freedom, those who are serious defenders of FoRB, like the International Committee of Jurists, the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom are taking steps to highlight the problems and help religious minorities in Malaysia.

Malaysian Federal Court refuses four people their right to affirm Christian identity

Palace of Justice Putrajaya Photo: by Gryffindor, Wikimedia Commons

(World Watch Monitor) Malaysia’s highest court dismissed an appeal today (27 February) against four appellants who wanted to be formally recognised as Christians.

The five judges of the Malaysian Federal Court ruled that in matters of conversion away from Islam, it was necessary for them to consult the Islamic Sharia courts.

The president of the court, Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, said the decision was unanimous.

He added that even though there are no specific provisions in the Sharia ordinance over conversions out of Islam, the religious court still has legal authority on what he termed “apostasy”.

Raucous, unruly scenes and shouts of “Allahu akbar” (“Allah is the greatest”) greeted the decision as a mob surrounded the Catholic Archbishop of Kuching, Simon Peter Poh, outside the court complex. He was jostled while being escorted to his car amid fears that he might be assaulted.

Three of the appellants had previously converted from Christianity to Islam when they married Malay-Muslim spouses, but now want to affirm their Christian identity again. The fourth is a Malay-Muslim who embraced the Christian faith and was baptised in 2009.

The Federal Court, sitting in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak state, yesterday (26 February) heard the joint appeal of the four appellants who want their conversions legally recognised. The judges then adjourned their decision to today.

The lawyer for the appellants, Baru Bian, an opposition politician and a campaigner for the customary rights of indigenous Malaysians, many of whom are Christian, had been optimistic that the judges would base their decision on the substance of the country’s civil law.

He said the argument of the state was that Sarawak Shariah Court Ordinance 2001 “has provisions on conversion into Islam”. Since there is no provision for those who want to leave the faith, he argued that the civil court should have jurisdiction.

Three of the appellants – Mohamed Syafiq Abdullah, who has taken the name Tiong Choo Ting; Jenny Peter, who was formerly Nur Muzdhalifah Abdullah; and Salina Jau Abdullah – converted to Islam in order to marry Muslims. All four were asking the Federal Court to have their names and their faith changed on their national identity cards.

In 2006 Jenny Peter divorced her Muslim husband and re-embraced Christianity. The Muslim husband of Salina Jau divorced her in 1992, and she too returned to Christianity. In the case of Tiong Choo Ting, he began to practise Christianity after his Muslim wife died in 2007.

The fourth appellant, Syarifah Nooraffyza Wan Hosen, is ethnic Malay and was raised as a Muslim. In her declaration she said she no longer practises Islam and was baptised in 2009. She wants her identity card to record her new faith and a new name, Vanessa Elizabeth.

According to local media, all four were required to undergo counselling for renouncing the Muslim faith. But they have remained adamant they want to renounce Islam, and have signed statutory declarations expressing this desire.

All four remain Muslims as far as official documentation is concerned.

Critics accused the court of failing to understand its powers to rule on an individual’s choice of religion. “It means that freedom of religion, which is a constitutional right and a matter for the civil court, is subservient to Islamic laws,” one Christian human-rights campaigner said.

Some social-media users said they felt disappointed by the Federal Court’s decision. Some even nicknamed the case the Sharia Court’s “Hotel California” clause, recalling the 1970s song by The Eagles about a hotel you could check into but never leave.

Islam is considered intrinsic to the identity of Malaysia’s majority Malay people, and under Sharia (Islamic law), renouncing Islam is viewed as apostasy, a crime, although liberal Muslim theologians argue that conversion is a matter for the individual. Many of the country’s sizeable Buddhist, Christian and Hindu populations are of non-Malay heritage.

In recent decades Islamists have become increasingly vocal in their demands that Malaysia be governed as a Muslim state, and analysts say the spread of a more conservative interpretation of Islam lies behind the rise in attacks on churches and church leaders.

At the same time, civil courts have handed jurisdiction over Islamic religious matters to the Sharia court system and at times taken a policy of non-interference between the two courts. This has left people wishing to leave Islam in legal limbo.

According to Malaysia’s constitution, the country is a secular state with Islam as its main religion. However, Islamists refute this, saying that the colonial-era charter of rights is no longer valid, and they demand the precedence of religious law.

An Open Letter To Congress On An Urgent Plea For Help

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There are many urgent problems plaguing America today.  But the most urgent is the plight of Christians across the Middle East and Africa.

Christian genocide has been declared, yet America refuses to admit Christians who are persecuted.  If we could save one life, why aren’t we?

We want to zero in on Pakistan for a moment.  Pakistan receives top aide from our government.  Our government recognizes Christians are singled out, targeted and persecuted.  In Pakistan Christians are considered unclean, even non-Christians trying to come against laws like the blasphemy are assassinated or exiled.  Pakistan is not following its own constitution, and yet the UNHCR refuses to investigate.

This is from the US report on International Religious freedom (2015):

According to news reports, on February 20, a judge dismissed the fourth bail petition of Liaquat Ali, who was accused of blasphemy in 2013. Ali and Ali’s religious instructor were accused of blasphemy for allegedly incorrectly reciting the Islamic testimony of faith. Ali said the accusation was a personal grudge related to a property dispute.

On March 28, a court sentenced Sawan Masih to death for blasphemy in an incident that had triggered a riot in Lahore. The court convicted Masih, a Christian, of committing blasphemy in a conversation with a Muslim friend in 2013. A mob of more than 3,000 persons burned some 100 Christian homes in Lahore’s Joseph Colony after the allegations against Masih emerged. Masih filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court, stating the charges were false and aimed at evicting Christians from the area.

On April 3, a trial court in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab, handed a death sentence to Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, a Christian couple accused of texting blasphemous messages to local Muslims in Gojra, Punjab. Police first registered the case in June 2013.

On July 11, Islamabad’s Anti-terrorism Court ordered the continued detention of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants Hammad Adil and Muhammad Tanveer. The men allegedly confessed, after their arrests in August 2013, to the 2011 assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the former federal minister of minority affairs and an outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws. Adil and Tanveer were the main suspects accused in the murder. Their trial was ongoing at year’s end.

On October 16, the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row since 2010, when a district court found her guilty of making derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammed during an argument. On November 24, her lawyers submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court.

And that’s only a few instances.  A Christian couple burned alive because mob mentality knows no fear of prosecution.  The brick kiln owners are government sanctioned slave owners.  The Ahmadi Muslims are given priority because the government does not recognize their Muslim beliefs, but the UNHCR refuses to acknowledge that Christians in Pakistan are persecuted.

Case in point:  A Pakistani who fled to Thailand to avoid death waited 3 years for his interview for asylum with the UNHCR. Postponement after postponement dashed his hope of ever living a normal life or providing for his wife.  Finally last month he received his interview only to be denied.  He was told Christians in Pakistan are safe and he could return.  Even with clear cut evidence of the opposite.  This man was a Christian photographer and worked as a television host in Pakistan  with multiple medias, he led a profitable life until he came under attack and attempted assasination.  He is not the exception, but part of a growing problem plaguing Christians in Pakistan.  Christian women have to hide under the Hijab to go in public for fear of being recognized.  Many are beaten and raped.

The UN Humans Rights Council must be held accountable for clear discrimination against Christians.

Again this is URGENT, as many face deportation in foreign lands such as Thailand and Malaysia.  It’s true that Thailand is not a signatory of  the Human rights 1951 convention.  But the UNHCR is there, why won’t they help them??  It’s time to bring Human Rights recognition into the 21st century.  Hold them accountable!

Contact us for details and documentation from persecuted Christians discriminated against by the UNHCR.  Please this is urgent.  Anything you can do would be a great help.  The man who was denied asylum needs immediate intervention.  Then international laws need to be revised, or at least committees formed to investigate the practices of the UNHCR in regards to Christian refugees.  Please we are their only voice. Yours may be the one that makes the difference to end their suffering. Won’t you join in the efforts of the UK to highlight this abuse?  These people need you.

Sincerely,

The team at Voice of the Persecuted

Contact us at info@voiceofthepersecuted.org

Editors note:  Won’t you replace or add your name to this letter and send it to representatives across the US?  You may copy and paste this letter.  Please message your Elected Officials, today!

How to Find and Contact Federal Elected Officials
Click here to add your name to this letter in a petition.

UNHCR Fails To Honor Appointments For Asylum Seekers Interviews In Thailand & Malaysia

Photo: Voice of the Persecuted

Photo: Voice of the Persecuted

(Voice of the Persecuted) Yesterday morning, we received messages of blessings and love from a persecuted brother who is in great suffering. As persecution and fear increases, the faith of these precious ones remains strong through hard trials and heartbreak.

We’ve been praying for all the Christian Asylum seekers in Thailand and Malaysia, but for one in particular as their interview date with the UNHCR came close.  But then, we received a heartbreaking message from our brother.  His family’s interview date had been postponed yet again.

“I am heartbroken as my appointment is set for 2017.”  Each time their interviews come up they are postponed for yet another year.  Not another week, another day, another month.  But another year.

It is a common practice of the UNHCR in Thailand to postpone appointment after appointment sealing the fate of these dear brethren. For another year, they must suffer their fate, FEAR! No way to legally provide for even basic necessities for survival. Forced into hiding and situations of darkness. Forced to watch their children lack for food and medicine, they can not even play outside. Disease runs rampant and the stress of probable arrest brings physical health issues such as hypertension.  They follow the impossible rules set by the UN, but they are lost in the cracks of a broken system.  A system overwhelmed that has failed them. Dreams of a free life, dreams of education, dreams of moving freely among society seem so far away.  Shattered dreams, and yet their faith is so strong.  Would, could your faith remain as strong?

Holding on to Hope through the storm, their faith increases. Media outlets have begun to wake up to their plight, but their reports, as ours go unheeded and barely read.  The UNHCR responded recently to an email that we sent explaining they couldn’t help as Thailand is not a signatory to the UNHCR refugee program. Malaysia is also not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Christian asylum seekers suffer there too. It’s acceptable!  The UN needs to stop ignoring and rewarding countries abusing human rights.  Speak out for them. Specifically now, with the refugee crises. Hold our lawmakers accountable, ask them to intervene in anyway they can.  Ask them to call for a UN Security council meeting pertaining to these countries who persecute the persecuted.  Do Something.  We have an opportunity now like never before, since after our lawmakers have acknowledged Christian Genocide.  Hold them accountable for Persecution.

A Canadian church has agreed to sponsor this family who’ve had their asylum interview postponed. It is extremely expensive to sponsor asylum seekers. The total for this family is $50,400 CAD. Sounds high? The fees are higher in the USA!

Voice of the Persecuted is very familiar with this family. They suffered persecution in their homeland, Pakistan. They came to Thailand to save their lives. But while they have waited, they have worked very hard to help care for their brothers and sisters suffering alongside them. They are committed to this work and with the help of the Canadian church will continue even after they are resettled. Knowing their background, Voice of the Persecuted can confirm their intentions. Unfortunately, the church was only able to raise a portion of the funds. Others have generously donated to help this family, but still short 10,000 CAD ($7500.00 USD) required by the government to proceed. If you would like to help this faithful family gain freedom and to continue to the work to save other Pakistani families please contact us, they are so close!  Come on Church, let’s make this happen. Shine the love of Christ!

Contact us at info@voiceofthepersecuted.org or by mail:

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTEDYou may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

Please include a note designating your gift for this family.

Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!

 

Persecution of Pakistani Christians Reaches Across Continents

 

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(Voice of the Persecuted) A small child lying lifeless on a beach face down, Christians slaughtered—their body parts strewn by those who attack in the most barbaric, evil way. Millions flee war torn countries and an evil ideology, while governments vie for control. Images of refugees and the internally displaced from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and beyond have been burned into our memories forever.

It’s more than a movement, revolution, civil war, or extremism joining forces to wreak havoc across the planet.

Often we hear persecution of Christians comes at the hands of radicals or extremists, not by the religion of Islam. Lost in the migrant crisis is the fact Christians are persecuted in Islamic nations, even banned from entering areas and forbidden places of worship. So called political correctness has placed a veil over the fact that Sharia is used as tool for the abuse of Christians, other religious minorities and women—an instigator of persecution.

Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia following strict forms of Sharia law are not experiencing civil war, nor the destruction of their nation.  But today, we draw your attention to Pakistan.

Christians in Pakistan have experienced persecution since their birth. It’s a reality of daily life and often worse for those who dare to speak out and seek legal justice.

Pakistan was formed in blood and continues this way, today.  Christianity suffers greatly at the hands of the Islamic government with a blatant disregard for the lives of Christians. Pakistan is known for turning a blind eye to everything from bonded labor, rape of Christian women and young girls, forced conversions, forced marriages to mobs taking the law into their own hands even burning alive those falsely accused of blasphemy.

Pakistan lost their bid for a seat on the UN Human rights council.  Imagine a country with a record of slavery, murder and religious intolerance judging any type of human rights abuses sitting on the panel.  To expect them to call out human rights abuses when they allow, condone and practice such evil would be absurd.

 According to Dawn News Agency this is how western countries described Pakistan’s human rights record:

“Western countries also had their qualms. The Nordic countries in particular had concerns about Pakistan’s human rights record — death penalty, the blasphemy issue and persecution of Christians, Ahmadis and Shias. Others were uncomfortable over the strong position Pakistan took on issues like drones and ‘Islamophobia’.”

The US recently released a report that claims Pakistan as one of the top abusers of religious freedom:

Detailing the many abuses of religious freedom in its section on Pakistan, the IRF report states that in 2014:

Government policies did not afford equal protection to members of majority and minority religious groups, and due to discriminatory legislation, minorities often were afraid to profess freely their religious beliefs. Media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported killings of religious minorities by police. . . . The government’s general failure to investigate, arrest, or prosecute those responsible for societal abuses promoted an environment of impunity that fostered intolerance and acts of violence . . . . In numerous cases during the year, authorities failed to protect victims of religiously motivated mob violence.  Read more.

Recently rapists were set free after brutally beating and raping 2 Christian sisters.  Bribery and fear are often used against witnesses, and manipulation of justice is at levels unimaginable.  Even some who claim to help are sometimes rife with corruption and greed.

“Christian girls, who are never removed from the custody of their rapists, are forced to agree to the terms of their marriage rather than see their families killed before them and receive further beatings and degradation.”  “How many girls will cry themselves to sleep forever, before international governments intervene?”  Read Here.

Taken from our report “The Dark Secrets Of Pakistan & The Attempts To Silence The Truth”:

We followed the death of the Human Rights Activist Sabeen Mahmud. One of the last events she hosted, was on the ‘disappeared’ of Balochistan, those who have been killed by the State.  She stood for Freedom of Speech, and encouraged debate. She also helped form a human chain around a Christian church in solidarity with the Christian community after an attack on a church in Peshawar.  Sabeen was an avid voice for the Human Rights abuses in Balochistan.  This region is steeped in conflict not only from Pakistan, but Afghanistan, and even Iran.  A report broke about another Human Rights Activist who spoke about her grief over Mahmud’s murder.  She has received death threats, rape threats and threats of charges of Blasphemy.  So full of vitriol and hatred are these threats she had to delete her social media accounts.  Freedom of the press and freedom of religion in Pakistan are non-existent, at the least, and anyone who dares to speak out is met with immense pressure, prison and even death.  World Watch Monitor reported the Press club in Quetta banned 4 Christian journalists for what they call proselytizing….converting Muslims to Infidels.  Read More.

For the world to ignore the plight of Pakistani Christians, people who’ve fled death and mutilation for religious freedom and peace, is one of the biggest travesties of justice seen in the world, today.  They are swept under a mountain of migrant issues, while countries they escape to, like Thailand and Malaysia only add to their suffering.  This is not new, but where are they to go? The UNHCR has been unwilling to find solutions to help and protect Pakistani Christians.  At the very least, they could defend them in countries where they issue asylum seeker certificates.  Assurances should be made to give them the ability to work and support their families, help to extend their visas and protect them from arrest or worse, deportation.  Anything but remain silent and endlessly postpone interviews required for asylum status.

The world is repeating the very thing seen during the Holocaust when it ignored the plight of the Jewish people.  Many Christians who dared to help were sacrificed along with them, while the world turned away in silence. It’s shocking the number of today’s college students who are completely ignorant of the Holocaust. It should be a mandatory lesson…we’ve forgotten the words, “Never Again.”

No hope of returning as in war torn countries, no hope of regaining lost lives. Many, often educated are thrust into a life of poverty in hiding with no recourse. One brother injured so badly in an attack suffers constant oral pain and needs of dental surgery.  Many of the children are sick, some with pneumonia. Heart patients, diabetics…the list goes on and on. Sadly, the majority of American and Western churches are silent.  Nothing…no comfort, no aide, no mention.  If every church in America would sponsor only one family every month, all could be cared for. Even $100.00 goes a long way to provide food, medicine and shelter for persecuted Christians in Thailand. If every church prayed for those suffering for Christ, miracles would be witnessed!

Flag of Pakistan

The Constitution and flag of Pakistan each are to represent religious minorities such as Christians?  We have covered the constitution of Pakistan,  but here is the representation of their flag:

The green represents Islam and the majority Muslims in Pakistan and the white stripe represents religious minorities and minority religions. In the centre, the crescent and star symbolizes progress and light respectively.  The flag symbolizes Pakistan’s commitment to Islam and the rights of religious minorities. It is based on the original flag of the Muslim League, which itself drew inspiration from the flag of the Sultanate of Delhi, the flag of Ottoman Empire and the Flag of the Mughal Empire.

Pakistan defies their own flag. How can the global community ever trust that they would recognize abuse if they are abusers in their own country?

You can begin to see the dire circumstance our Pakistani brethren face.  Not only in Pakistan, but continue to endure in places such as Thailand and Malaysia in the painstaking wait for freedom. Don’t turn away, silence is no longer an option. Write your representatives, write to the UNHCR, or sign a petition.

Use your voice to help Persecuted Christians fleeing extreme persecution, life sentences or death…don’t remain silent. PRAY like never before.  Prayer is our greatest tool against evil.  If you can help monetarily, please do so below.

Together with your generous support, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!

You may also mail your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

Case in Malaysia Could Decide if Sharia Supersedes Constitution

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(Morning Star News) – A case involving the constitutional position of sharia (Islamic law) courts in the Malaysian legal system could strengthen the power of the courts to block Malay conversions from Islam.

In the potentially landmark case, that had been scheduled to be heard today, the Federal Territory Islamic Council claims that sharia courts are separate from and not subject to Malaysia’s federal court system.

Malaysia has two legal systems: the sharia courts and the federal courts. The sharia courts settle family matters (such as divorces), inheritance questions and violations of the pillars of Islam. These courts can impose limited punishments (six months’ imprisonment and fines up to about $1,300). They apply exclusively to Muslims – only Muslims can bring cases to these courts, and until 2006 only Muslims testified in them.

A Christian lawyer, Victoria Martin, noticed that it was difficult to resolve interfaith disputes in sharia courts, so she obtained a diploma in sharia from the International Islamic University Malaysia. In August 2009, she applied to the Federal Territory Islamic Council (Majilis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan, or MAIWP) for permission to practice in sharia court.

Her application was not processed because she was not a Muslim; rule 10 of the Sharia Court Rules Act (1993) states that sharia lawyers must be Muslims. By contrast, Singapore, which has a similar legal heritage, allows non-Muslims to practice in sharia courts.

In October 2009, Martin sued in Malaysian court requesting a judicial review of the rejection of her application. She lost, but later she won on appeal. The appeals court cited section 59(1) of the Sharia Court Rules Act (1993), which states that anyone with “sufficient knowledge of Islamic law” may be an advocate (attorney) in sharia courts.

Both the Malaysian Attorney General and the MAIWP have challenged Martin’s argument that her constitutional rights have been denied. Their case was due to be heard in the Malaysian Federal Court on Aug. 13, pitting constitutional rights against sharia. The ruling was expected to be delayed, however, over political issues.

The Islamic Council holds that because Islamic law always prioritizes the rights of the community over those of an individual, such laws should not be subject to freedoms that are part of the Malaysian Federal Constitution.

A decision for Martin would affirm the supremacy of the Federal Constitution. A decision against her, however, would mean that Islamic laws supersede federal laws. This would place the sharia courts beyond the reach of the federal courts.

If the position of the sharia courts is beyond review of federal courts, Malaysia’s 15 million ethnic Malays would be affected immediately, because all Malays are defined in the Constitution (Article 160) as Muslims. As “sons of the soil” (bumiputeras), they are given special affirmative action types of privileges.

One consequence of bumiputera status is that it is not possible for a Malay to convert to any other religion without changing ethnic status. Only sharia courts can change a person’s religious (and ethnic) status. A decision against Martin in the case thus would strengthen the sharia courts’ power to impede Malays converting to other faiths.

In short, the Martin case will be critical in defining the position of the sharia courts with respect to the federal court system. The placement of one system over the other will rest on the decision.

321 Bibles seized by Malaysia’s Islamic authorities

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Islamic authorities in Malaysia seized 321 Bibles from a Christian group because they used the word Allah to refer to God, signalling growing intolerance that may inflame ethnic and religious tension in the Southeast Asian country.

The raid, which took place Thursday in capital Kuala Lumpur, comes after a Malaysian court in October ruled that the Arabic word was exclusive to Muslims, most of whom are ethnic Malays, the largest ethnic group in the country alongside sizable Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities.

That ruling then overturned a court decision that allowed a Roman Catholic newspaper printed in Malay, the country’s national language, to use Allah.

The change has heightened concern that religious authorities, which issue rulings for Muslims and operate alongside civil courts, now have more legal muscle.

‘Allah’ controversy called a diversion

Analysts say new rulings that affect non-Muslims could be a way of deflecting anger against Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government from poor Malay Muslims over subsidy cuts likely to force up electricity, gas and sugar prices.

On Thursday, the top Islamic authority in the richest and most populous state of Selangor seized the Malay-language Bibles from the Bible Society. The society said authority officials escorted two of its officials to a police station to make statements after which they were released on bail.

“We were told that we were under investigation for breaking a Selangor state law banning non-Muslims from using the word Allah,” said Bible Society of Malaysia chairman Lee Min Choon.

The raid is a marked escalation from the occasional seizure at border checkpoints of Bibles imported from Indonesia. It was the first time Islamic authorities have entered premises belonging to a Christian organization to carry out a raid.

Christians from Malaysia’s rural states of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo, who have used the word Allah for centuries, have moved in droves to Selangor and other parts of peninsular Malaysia in recent years to look for work.

No unauthorized use of ‘Allah’

The main political party within Najib’s ruling coalition, the United Malays National Organization, said its Selangor members would protest at all churches in the state on Sunday against unauthorized use of the word Allah.

“There are laws in Selangor and there was a decree by his Royal Highness the Sultan. So what they are doing is carrying out the Sultan’s decree,” Deputy Prime Minister and UMNO Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin was quoted by media as saying.

“They are not doing anything against the law.”

The Sultan of Selangor, one of nine sultans who serve in turn as titular Malaysian head of state, decreed last year that non-Muslims must refrain from using Allah in Bibles. He asked Muslims to unite against “bad elements” that misuse the word.

The increasingly assertive stand by holders of the largely ceremonial office show that Muslim leaders have become increasingly vocal about their role in defending Islam.

In 2010, arsonists firebombed several churches over the initial ruling that allowed the Catholic newspaper to use the Arabic word. Two Malay men were found guilty for setting fire to one of the churches.

cbc news

What Happened to Christians in the Middle East this August?

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“After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the street ‘like prisoners of war,’ before a Muslim woman offered them refuge.” — Associated Press

While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions.

The attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christians and their churches that began in July on the heels of the popular June 30 Revolution — which saw the ousting of President Morsi and prompted the Muslim Brotherhood to scapegoat and incite violence against the Copts — became even more brutal in mid-August after security forces cleared out Brotherhood “sit in” camps, where people were being tortured, raped, and murdered. Among other things, over 80 Christian churches were attacked and often torched. (Click here for a brief video of one of these many churches set aflame.)

Upper Egypt, especially Minya, which has a large Christian minority, was hit especially hard, with at least 20 attacks on churches, Christian schools and orphanages. “The Islamists,” one resident said, “burnt and destroyed everything. Their goal was to erase all the traces of a Christian presence; even the orphanages were looted and destroyed.” After storming the Prince Tadros el-Shatbi Church, Morsi supporters turned their attention to two homes for disadvantaged children located near the parish church; there, they stole church offerings, clothes, and children’s games before torching the entire building in a fire that lasted over five hours.

The Al-Anba Mousa Church in Minya, Egypt, after being torched by Islamists. (Image source: Screenhot of Human Rights Watch video)

The attacks were not limited to inanimate objects. According to the BBC, 10-year-old Jessi Boulus, an only child, was walking home from her Bible class in a working-class area of the capital when a gunman killed her with a single shot to the chest. Her mother, Phoebe, devastated, believes Jessi was targeted purely because she was Christian.

The attacks on Egypt’s Christians were so fierce that, at one point, when they started to run out of food, they were afraid to come out of their homes for fear of being killed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Many churches canceled services. Even at the Virgin Mary monastery, which was also torched, one priest said, “We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years.”

Although some in the West assert that the Christian minority needs to fight fire with fire, when one 60-year-old Copt tried to do just that, firing a gun in the air to scare away an invading Islamic mob, “It proved a fatal error,” the Sunday Times reported: “They took offence at the fact that a Christian fired in the air against them, and they stormed his home and shot him to death before taking his body away and hacking it into parts.”

Scenes reminiscent of the original Islamic conquest of Seventh Century Egypt replayed themselves: an Evangelical church in the village of Bedin was not only attacked but converted into a mosque. Similarly, as reported by the AP, “After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like ‘prisoners of war’ before a Muslim woman offered them refuge. Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.”

Meanwhile, the Western mainstream media sympathized with the Brotherhood while ignoring the Coptic victims. Even the Coptic Church criticized the “false broadcast by Western media” and called for an “objective” revision to be made of the actions of those “blood-thirsty radical organizations…. [I]nstead of legitimizing them with global support and political coverage while they are trying to wreak havoc and destruction upon our beloved land, report all events truthfully and accurately.”

One activist said of the U.S. and the EU, that they “almost daily issue statements threatening to take further actions against our interim government and army, portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as victims while not even mentioning the destruction of over 80 churches, as well monasteries, orphanages, businesses and Coptic schools by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Father Rafic Greiche, the chief spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, criticized President Obama for not speaking out against the worst violence against Egyptian Christians in nearly 700 years: “President Obama when he made a speech he just touched on the burning churches instead of telling the Muslim Brotherhood that they are terrorists and they are making terror on Egypt. He did not speak loud for this and shame on him if he is a Christian that he does not speak out loud.”

Even more telling, although human rights activists and lawmakers have long been asking that U.S. aid to Egypt be made contingent on the respect for the human rights of minorities such as the Copts, the Obama administration failed to include such a condition. In a direct response to the ousting of the Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, however, the administration did reduce U.S. aid to Egypt by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The rest of August’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, not according to severity:

Attacks on Christian Places of Worship

Nigeria: A report revealed that, since January 2012 alone, 50 Christian churches were attacked and 366 people killed in those attacks. (Attacks on churches, however, have been going on for well over a decade; hundreds if not thousands of churches have been destroyed.) In August, a Muslim mob with knives and iron rods injured several members of the St. James Anglican Cathedral in Nasarawa—including three pastors, four elders and choir members. According to a source, a “Muslim woman sent her children to purchase water from the church’s borehole, and then a misunderstanding over about 5 naira [less than 1 cent US$] occurred. The Muslim woman then went and invited some of her Muslim neighbors, who stormed the church and attacked the members of the church” as well as damaging Bibles and other property.

Syria: The Antiochian Orthodox church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, one of only two churches that served many Christians, was demolished after the Free Syrian Army took over the region of Thawrah. According to one Christian refugee: “They [FSA] tore up the sanctuary curtains, Bibles and other holy books, and broke all the crosses, chairs and icons of Jesus and the saints. They stole electrical appliances like fans, chandeliers and lights. They took whatever was in the church, and sold it all. There is nothing there now.”

Turkey: After the Christian staff of the Saint Abraham monastery told a group of Muslims that visiting hours were over, the Muslims threatened, cursed, and ultimately attacked the staff, saying “we own this land, obey us or you will be sorry.” According to a member of the monastery, “The monastery was attacked two months before this incident by young [Muslim] Kurds from the town of Batman, but we decided not to go public about it, this time we decided it’s enough. We gave the police the footage from the surveillance camera from the previous attack and now it is gone and no one was punished. They promised us to put guards here but we don’t see any and when they [the police] came yesterday, they attacked us with pepper spray instead of the attackers. Certainly all this cannot be merely coincidences.”

Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Proselytism

Iran: Mohammad-Hadi Bordbar, known as Mostafa, an Iranian convert to Christianity, was sentenced to ten years in prison under the pretext of “crimes against state security.” Court documents state that the man confessed to “having abandoned Islam to follow Christianity … considering evangelization his duty, he distributed 12,000 pocket gospels.” According to Agenzia Fides, “After having received baptism, Mostafa had set up a ‘house church,’ an assembly of home worship, with prayer meetings at home, which are considered ‘illegal.’ Mostafa was arrested in Tehran on December 27, 2012, after a police raid at his house. The security officers detained and interrogated all those present at the meeting for hours, about 50 Iranian Christians. In his home the police found material and Christian publications, such as movies, books, CDs and over 6,000 copies of the Gospel. Mostafa had already been arrested in 2009 for conversion to Christianity, found guilty of apostasy, then released on bail. Similarly, Ebrahim Firouzi, another young convert from Islam to Christianity, was sentenced to one year in jail followed by two years in exile, after being accused of starting and directing an evangelism group, launching a Christian website, distributing Bibles and Christian literature, and attending house churches. The judge described such activities as “propagating against the Islamic regime” and said that Ebrahim was “an anti-Islamic Revolution agent inside the country.”

Uzbekistan: In the Samarkand region, some 30 police officers along with 60 other officials raided a Christian children’s camp, subjecting all 22 children to questioning. Brandishing their batons, police collected statements from the nine adults present at the camp, and all the children, including the youngest, and took them all to the police station for further questioning before releasing them. Officials confiscated a number of items including Christian literature and Uzbek-language New Testaments. Next, police raided the homes of the four adults who organized the children’s camp, and confiscated more Christian literature. It is believed that anti-proselytism related charges will be leveled against the four.

Slaughter of Christians

Central African Republic: Anywhere from 15 Christians to dozens, including a five-month-old baby, were slaughtered and 14 Christian villages emptied, after the Islamic group Seleka, which earlier seized the African nation’s leadership, raided their villages. According to Fr. Gazzera, a local missionary priest from Italy, “It was terrible. Many villages are like ghost towns because they are completely empty. Witnesses told me that the rebels had thrown the bodies of those killed in the river.” During a sermon, the priest lamented how the Islamic takeover of the country is producing “victims of the worst kind of barbarism” who “are being tortured and killed,” while “our mothers and sisters are being raped.”

Nigeria: A former Muslim terrorist recounted in detail the jihad on Christians and how Islamic organizations in the nation, not just Boko Haram, see the slaughter of Christians as one of the loftiest goals to which Muslims can aspire. He also explained how, “If we ask our victim, ‘Will you become a Muslim or not’ and he or she refuses, we will slaughter him like a goat…”

Somalia: Suspected al-Shabaab Islamic militants kidnapped and sexually abused a 28-year-old Christian wife and mother, while calling her an “infidel.” They also texted her husband, who had fled with their small children, writing: “Your wife has told us all about your Christian involvement and soon we shall come for you too.”

Syria: Islamic rebels killed Paolo Dall’Oglio, an Italian Jesuit priest who had earlier disappeared in the east of the country. Before being slaughtered, the priest had served for three decades in the Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian. Activists say he was killed by the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Dall’Oglio’s disappearance follows the kidnappings of the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox archbishops of Aleppo; Paul Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim were both kidnapped after gunmen intercepted their vehicle and killed its driver near Kafr Dael as the clergymen returned from a humanitarian relief mission on April 22. They are both believed to be held by Chechen jihadists. Aside from religious leaders, hundreds of regular Christians have been abducted and held for ransom, an activity that is legal according to Sharia in the context of the jihad.

Dhimmitude

[Infidels as Tolerated, Second Class Citizens in the Islamic World]

Indonesia: During celebrations marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and praying, an unidentified person hurled two Molotov cocktails into the compound of the Assisi Catholic School in South Jakarta, the same school U.S. President Barack Obama attended as a pupil before moving to another facility located in Central Jakarta. According to police sources, the Islamic extremists responsible for the bombings and attacks on religious minorities in Java are linked to the same Islamic groups that beheaded three Christian girls on their way to school in 2005.

Malaysia: A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal ruled unanimously in favor of the proposed ban on Christians publications from using the word “Allah.” In 2009, when this issue of Christians using the word “Allah” was popularized, churches were vandalized and those supporting the Christians’ using the word “Allah” threatened with death. Also in 2009, the government seized shipments of local language Christian Bibles because they contained the Arabic word for the deity.

Pakistan: A Christian woman and her children are under great pressure to convert to Islam or die by the Muslim family of their deceased husband and father. According to the mother, Martha Bibi, “When I got married, the relatives [of my husband] began to exert pressure so that I convert [to Islam]. But my husband stood up for me, saying that ‘my wife and my children should feel free to profess their faith.’ However, after his death his brothers have begun to terrorize us. They have sworn to kill us if we do not convert to Islam.” Also, approximately 30 armed Muslims attacked a Christian colony by opening fire at residents and throwing projectiles at their homes and local church. The colony, Shah Bagh, is near Joseph colony, where earlier nearly 200 Christian homes were torched by rampaging Muslims. The attack was prompted after a local Christian tried to stop the cable operator from charging Christians more money for cable access. Many Christians were injured, often with bullet wounds.

Sinai Peninsula (Egypt): In the Sinai Peninsula, now populated with jihadis, members of the Muslim Bedouin tribes are abducting Christians and holding them ransom for exorbitant sums. When their often destitute families are unable to pay for their release, the Christians are tortured to death—including by crucifixion. Shahar Shoham, director of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, told CBN News : “Sinai was always a place for human smuggling, but since around two years ago—even a bit more—it started also to be a place of human torture. They torture them in horrible methods, like hanging upside down from the ceiling, like using electric shocks, like burning them on their bodies.”

Syria: Concerning the Islamic rebel takeover of Christian regions, one refugee lamented how “if any Christians want to go back they have to become Muslim or else they will be killed.” Displaced Christians further report their property stolen, their homes confiscated, and their possessions sold on the black market. Another refugee lamented they were running out of places to flee: “All the roads are full of rebel fighters. It’s really dangerous. We have lost everything. There is nothing for us over there now, nothing to return to. We just need help to get out of here and settle in a country that is safe.”

by Raymond Ibrahim for Gatestone Institute

About this Series

While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions. “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:

1) To document that which the mainstream media often seems to fail to report.

2) To suggest that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic.

These accounts span different ethnicities, languages, and locations.

raymond-ibrahim-crucified-again-smRaymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013). He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Media Fellow of the Hoover Institution, 2013

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