False start to Sisters in Islam’s fight against ‘deviant’ fatwa as Selangor Islamic council’s lawyer out sick

SIS’s lawyer, A. Surendra Ananth that the Selangor Islamic Religious Council’s representative asked the court for a deferment due to medical reasons and the judge then fixed the next hearing date for June 17. — Reuters pic
SIS’s lawyer, A. Surendra Ananth that the Selangor Islamic Religious Council’s representative asked the court for a deferment due to medical reasons and the judge then fixed the next hearing date for June 17. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — Today’s scheduled hearing of Sisters in Islam’s (SIS) legal challenge against a fatwa, or religious edict, declaring it “deviant” was postponed after the High Court was informed that the opposing counsel was medically unwell.

SIS’s lawyer, A. Surendra Ananth, told Malay Mail that the Selangor Islamic Religious Council’s (Mais) representative asked the court for a deferment due to medical reasons and the judge then fixed the next hearing date for June 17.

“It was supposed to go on for hearing today, but because of the medical emergency today, we could not proceed.

“He (Mais’s counsel) requested for an adjournment, and all parties had no objections to it,” he said, adding that the matter was discussed in the judge’s chambers.

On October 31, 2014, three applicants ― the company SIS Forum (Malaysia) Bhd that operates SIS; the group’s co-founder, Zainah Anwar; and former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim ― filed for judicial review of the fatwa and named the Selangor Fatwa Committee, Mais, and the Selangor state government as respondents.

The fatwa, gazetted on July 31, 2014, considered “any individuals, organisations or institutions” deemed “liberal” to be religiously deviant but singled out SIS by name.

It further deemed any publication with elements of liberalism and religious pluralism as “haram”, or prohibited, and liable for seizure by religious authorities.

In addition, the fatwa urged local Internet regulator Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to block “any social websites” opposed to Islamic teachings and laws.

The Federal Court decided in favour of SIS last September by sending the lawsuit back to the High Court for judicial review of Mais’s fatwa.

The High Court had initially dismissed the Muslim women’s rights group’s initial judicial review in 2016.

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