Malaysia Embroiled in Another Conversion Court Battle

Malaysia is engaged in yet another conversion court battle, with the country's high court deciding whether the Christian widower of a Malaysian woman has the legal right to stop Islamic authorities from burying her in accordance with Muslim rites.

The judges in the court have to decide whether Wong Sau Lan, 53, converted to Islam before she died. The conversion claim made by the Islamic Council is being contested by her husband, Ngiam Tee Kong, who had received a notice from the council that she converted to Islam on Christmas Eve.

The case is the latest in the string of cases brought before the court that tests the strength of the Malaysian Constitution in defending religious freedom for minority groups.

Last year, Lina Joy, one of Malaysia's best known Christians, lost a six-year battle with the government over its refusal to remove Islam from her national identity card even though she converted to Christianity.

In his judgment against Joy, Federal Court Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim had stated that individuals "cannot simply convert from one religion to another (at the whim and fancy of the individual)" even though religious freedom is protected by the constitution.

The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia had condemned the court decision and claimed that it was retreating in the face of "relentless onslaught" on their position