Fatwa on liberalism, pluralism: Application for leave at Federal Court

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The Federal Court on 11 July 2017 granted leave to appeal to the Federal Court in the case of Jawatankuasa Fatwa Negeri Selangor, Majlis Agama Islam Selangor and the Government of Selangor (collectively referred to as the applicants) against SIS Forum (Malaysia) and two individuals, reports Sister in Islam.

The decision was granted by a three-man panel of judges chaired by Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif. The two other judges were Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and Abu Samah Nordin.

In 2014, Jawatankuasa Fatwa Negeri Selangor issued a fatwa naming SIS Forum (Malaysia) and other organisations or individuals that subscribe to liberalism and pluralism as deviant from the teachings in Islam and thus they may have their publications seized and their social media blocked. Subsequently, the same year SIS Forum (Malaysia) took an action against the applicants for judicial review of the fatwa, particularly whether the fatwa contravened the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

The applicants had filed for leave to appeal to the Federal Court from the decision by the Court of Appeal which had decided in March 2017 that the civil court had the jurisdiction to hear the case as the case referred to whether the fatwa is in contravention with the Federal Constitution.

The Federal Court decided that it should revisit this decision to consider whether, inter alia, :

● the civil courts have jurisdiction where the matter involves an Islamic issue (in this case a fatwa);
● a company can be ‘implied’ to profess the religion of Islam and thus be subjected to the jurisdiction of the Sharia courts;
● in judicial review proceedings, a plea of res judicata can be raised at the leave stage or at any level of proceeding;
● a company using the term Islam as a name and controlled by persons professing religion of Islam can be regarded as ‘Muslim” pursuant to Section 2 of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003;
● during judicial review proceedings, the presence of the Attorney General Chambers (AGC) pursuant to mandatory procedural pursuant to Order 53, rule 3 of Rules of Court 2012 can be assumed as representing the respondents.

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Since 2003, Sisters in Islam has served close to 10,000 Muslim women who turned to us for legal help to seek redress to their marital problems. We have trained over 4,000 women on their legal rights through our popular legal literacy workshop. We have led awareness and advocacy programmes in areas which require urgent law reform such as child marriages, domestic violence and ensuring economic wellbeing for single mother led families.

We are one of the few civil society organisations in Malaysia and the world that has spearheaded Islamic thought towards a progressive and inclusive society. Our work remains vital in upholding and protecting women, children and Malaysian society from any form of injustice or oppression, particularly when considered within the lens of Islam as administered in Malaysia.

Sisters In Islam will continue our struggle to ensure that we continue our work unhindered to serve women, families and Malaysian society at large and to create a better Malaysia for all.

Sisters in Islam

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