Apex court allows SIS to challenge Sharia courts’ jurisdiction to hear judicial reviews

The Federal Court has granted leave for the application by Sisters in Islam (SIS) to challenge the validity of Section 66A of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003.

This is an application for leave pursuant to Article 4(4) of the Federal Constitution in the Federal Court to declare Section 66A invalid on the grounds that the Selangor State Legislature has no power to make such a law under the Federal Constitution.

Federal Court judge Zabariah Mohd Yusof presided over the leave application.

Section 66A states that the Sharia High Courts have the jurisdiction to hear judicial reviews against the decisions of state religious councils or committees.

Rozana Isa, executive director of SIS, said, “The Federal Court in allowing leave for this application recognises that the concern we raise here is valid and not frivolous.”

Previously, in a separate action, SIS initiated a judicial review against the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais), the Selangor State Fatwa Committee and the Selangor state government after the religious body issued a fatwa which declared SIS as deviants for subscribing to liberalism and religious pluralism.

The challenge was met with a disappointing outcome as the High Court decided that the matter is under the jurisdiction of the Sharia courts. In January 2020, the High Court granted SIS a stay of execution of the enforcement of the fatwa pending its appeal, which SIS will undertake in due course.

Despite the ongoing fatwa case, SIS continues our work of advancing and advocating for the rights of Muslim women and children in Malaysia. For 33 years, SIS has been carrying the voices of women from the grassroots to the highest levels of policymaking.

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SIS work includes advocating for an end to practices that are detrimental to children such as child marriage (we advocate for 18 as the legal minimum age of marriage for both men and women), female genital mutilation (which is practised on baby girls in Malaysia), [the use of] “bin/binti Abdullah” [as the last name’] for children born out of wedlock, and gender-based violence.

SIS, through its Telenisa line, has helped over 10,000 women and men by providing free legal consultation on Islamic family and Sharia criminal offences laws.

SIS also champions issues such as wife and child maintenance, the tightening of polygamy conditions and enforcement, the criminalising of marital rape and the promotion of gender equality in Muslim marriages and Islamic family laws.

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