Court grants SIS stay against execution of Selangor ‘anti-liberal’ fatwa

SIS executive director Rozana Isa speaks to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex January 23, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
SIS executive director Rozana Isa speaks to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex January 23, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 — The High Court here has granted Muslim women’s group Sisters in Islam’s (SIS) application to stay the execution of the enforcement of a fatwa against it, pending its appeal.

Judge Datuk Nordin Hassan said he does not have jurisdiction over the fatwa or religious edict at the main proceeding, but admitted that the previous decision can still be overturned in the Court of Appeal (CoA).

Justice Nordin also conceded the special circumstance in this case, as disobeying a fatwa is a Shariah offence in Selangor with serious complications.

“We applied for a stay of fatwa that was subject to judicial review pending our appeal in the Court of Appeal,” SIS’ lawyer Surendra Ananth told reporters here.

“The respondents, all of them objected, but the High Court allowed our stay which means the implementation of fatwa will be suspended pending the outcome of our appeal and whether it will be disposed of in the CoA.”

Nordin had in August last year ruled that civil courts have no jurisdiction to hear the challenge against the fatwa, declaring that the matter should instead be pursued via the Shariah courts.

Nordin also ruled that Selangor authorities had complied with the procedures in issuing the 2014 fatwa, also ruling that the fatwa was within constitutional limits.

SIS’ lawyers had previously argued that the fatwa cannot be applied on the company, as it does not fall within the category of “persons professing the religion of Islam” and that the state governments’ powers to make religious laws do not extend to companies.

SIS executive director Rozana Isa said she is extremely happy with the High Court’s decision today.

“I’m very happy with this decision as it means work continues in terms of fighting Muslim women and children’s rights and not worry what’s going to happen every day when we enter office,” said Rozana when met outside the court room.

“Meantime I’m looking forward to the trial and I hope we get our day in court and justice will prevail.”

Surendra said the application for the appeal was lodged in September last year, but the appellate court has yet to set a hearing date.

“Depending on the outcome, if we win the appeal, then the fatwa will be quashed. Assuming we lose, this stay will then have no effect and we’ll need the CoA to extend this stay pending proceedings in Federal Court,” he added.

On October 31, 2014, SIS filed for a judicial review of a gazetted fatwa in Selangor that declared the group as “deviants” in Islam due to its alleged religious liberalism and pluralism.

The fatwa gazetted on July 31, 2014 also deemed any publications with elements of liberalism and religious pluralism as haram, or forbidden to Muslims, and can be seized by religious authorities.

It further sought for local internet regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to monitor and block social media websites with content that is against Islam.

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