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Can Democracy and Muslim Sharia Law Live Together?

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It doesn't look like democracy fares very well when Sharia Law is allowed much power.

In supposedly democratic Malaysia, a country which describes itself as a Muslim country, the right of a person to choose his or own religion is no longer in question. You can't decide to stop being a Muslim if that's what you want to do.

Lina Joy, who has been going to church since 1992, wanted her religion changed on her national identity card. She was refused, and the highest court voted, two to one, along religious lines, that she must appeal to the Islamic Sharia courts. The two judges who voted against her appeal were both Muslim.

An AP article reported,

She appealed the decision to a civil court but was told she must take it to Islamic Shariah courts. Joy, 43, argued that she should not be bound by Shariah law because she is a Christian.

A three-judge Federal Court panel ruled by a 2-1 majority that only the Islamic Shariah Court has the power to allow her to remove the word "Islam" from the religion category on her government identity card.

"She cannot simply at her own whims enter or leave her religion," Judge Ahmad Fairuz said. "She must follow rules."

Judge Richard Malanjum, the only non-Muslim on the panel, sided with Joy, saying it was "unreasonable" to ask her to turn to the Shariah Court because she could face criminal prosecution there. Apostasy is a crime punishable by fines and jail sentences. Offenders are often sent to prison-like rehabilitation centers.

...About 60 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people are Malay Muslims, whose civil, family, marriage and personal rights are decided by Shariah courts. The minorities ---- the ethnic Chinese, Indians and other smaller communities ---- are governed by civil courts.
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But the constitution does not say who has the final say in cases such as Joy's when Islam confronts Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism or other religions.

The founding fathers of Malaysia left the constitution deliberately vague, unwilling to upset any of the three ethnic groups dominant at the time of independence from Britain 50 years ago, when building a peaceful multiracial nation was more important.

The situation was muddied further with the constitution describing Malaysia as a secular state but recognizing Islam as the official religion.

Muslim Youth Movement President Yusri Mohammad said that "we fully believe justice has been served."

"We praise Allah for the decision taken by the court," Mohammad said. "It should be seen as a rejection of attempts by certain individuals, certain parties, to deconstruct and radically revamp our current formula" for religious issues.
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Joy's case is the most prominent in a string of recent religious disputes, some involving custody of children born to parents of different faiths, and one involving a deceased Hindu man who converted to Islam without his family's knowledge and whom Islamic authorities ordered to be buried as a Muslim.

Another AP article reports:
Although the Malaysian Constitution allows freedom of faith, it says Islam is the official religion.

It also follows a dual justice system - the Shariah courts administer the family and personal affairs of Muslims, who are 60 percent of the 26 million people, while civil courts handle the affairs of the Hindu, Christian, Buddhist and Sikh minorities.

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

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Wikipedia has information about it. Much of it is ... by Blue Pilgrim on Saturday, Jun 2, 2007 at 9:04:57 PM
is that if it takes over a country, even the idea ... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Jun 2, 2007 at 9:21:44 PM
Sharia may not be the only law in a nation, and mi... by Blue Pilgrim on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 12:24:11 AM
If we take a look at where democracy has led us, I... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 6:49:57 AM
article says "All Muslims, not just the fanat... by Blue Pilgrim on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 1:49:38 PM
and as a result- a very wrong answer. I am very di... by Mark Sashine on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 7:27:28 AM
By ' religion' I of course mean not only&n... by Mark Sashine on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 7:38:41 AM
the real issue is the ISLAM was created by a murde... by Ben Marble, M.D. on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 9:20:44 AM
<>what can come out of the wrongly stated qu... by Mark Sashine on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 9:30:25 AM
www.gpln.com... by Mark A. Goldman on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 9:50:19 AM
I have born in a Muslim society. I have studied a ... by Muhammad Khurshid on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 10:59:20 AM
as long as democracy/secular law remains in contro... by k kelly on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 11:00:12 AM
This needs to be discussed by those of us on the p... by Steven Leser on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 11:16:35 AM
Great article and great comments. According to my ... by Muhammad Khurshid on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 1:21:22 PM
Why on earth would you want the US to come educate... by Mac McKinney on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 8:48:47 PM
for being the first in this conversation to bring ... by Samuel Bryan on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 1:52:02 PM
is broad and deep, and even with the little resear... by Blue Pilgrim on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 2:11:29 PM
I must point out that I don't completely agree... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 3:27:02 PM
dear muhammad...you must liberate yourselves. ... by k kelly on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 4:00:19 PM
islam and democray can coexisist but the way peopl... by MikaG on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 9:51:50 PM
the Muslim commenters in this thread make it clear... by Rob Kall on Monday, Jun 4, 2007 at 6:54:38 AM
Rob's question is whether Sharia Law and Democ... by Steven Leser on Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 at 10:31:09 PM
The main problem in the Muslim world nowadays is t... by Muhammad Khurshid on Monday, Jun 4, 2007 at 12:37:19 PM
Not only why not, but definitely, YES. Shariah Law... by syed mahdi on Tuesday, Jun 5, 2007 at 10:11:19 AM
The view put in your article could be read as wool... by Andris on Friday, Jun 8, 2007 at 11:35:36 PM