Last Updated: Monday, 22 September 2014, 21:11 GMT

Malaysia: Update to MYS38913.E of May 2002 on societal and governmental attitudes towards mixed marriages and relationships between Muslim women and non-Muslim men; police protection or legal recourse available to a non-Muslim male who is threatened by family members of his Muslim girlfriend; reports of police discrimination based on the religion of the complainant (2002-2004)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 24 June 2004
Citation / Document Symbol MYS42737.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Malaysia: Update to MYS38913.E of May 2002 on societal and governmental attitudes towards mixed marriages and relationships between Muslim women and non-Muslim men; police protection or legal recourse available to a non-Muslim male who is threatened by family members of his Muslim girlfriend; reports of police discrimination based on the religion of the complainant (2002-2004), 24 June 2004, MYS42737.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/41501c397.html [accessed 23 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003, Islam is the official religion of Malaysia (25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 2c). Although religious freedoms exist in the Constitution of Malaysia, according to the International Religious Freedom Report, they are not always honoured in practice: "The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the Government places some restrictions on this right" (18 Dec. 2003, Introduction). In addition, "it [is] official policy to 'infuse Islamic values' into the administration of the country" (Country Reports 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 2c; International Religious Freedom Report 18 Dec. 2003, Sec. 2).

In a 21 June 2004 telephone interview, a representative of the High Commission of Malaysia in Ottawa explained that the Malaysian government requires all Malaysians to register their marriages at the National Registration Department regardless of whether they participate in a religious or civil ceremony. He reported that civil marriages are acceptable (legal) for people who choose not to participate in a religious ceremony (High Commission of Malaysia 21 June 2004).

He also said that marriages contracted outside Malaysia between Muslims and non-Muslims would be recognized by the Malaysian government, but he could not speak for the religious authorities (High Commission of Malaysia 4 June 2004). It was his opinion that Muslims would have to obey Islamic law (Sharia or Syariah) regarding marriages in order for their unions to be accepted by the Islamic authorities (High Commission of Malaysia 4 June 2004).

However, a representative of the Murtads from Malaysia, a support organization for ex-Muslims who face discrimination (Murtads n.d.), expressed the belief that marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims could not be registered in Malaysia unless the non-Muslim spouse converted to Islam (10 June 2004).

Some sources reported that Islamic law requires non-Muslims to convert to Islam in order to marry Muslims (Murtads 10 June 2004; Embassy of the US, Kuala Lumpur n.d.; IPDC 9 June 2004). However, according to Expert Law, a Website that provides a mechanism for lawyers to locate expert witnesses in a wide variety of fields without cost, (Expert Law n.d.) "[w]hile all the juristic schools allow a Muslim man to marry a Jewish or Christian woman, they prohibit a Muslim woman from marrying [a] non-Muslim man" (Jan. 2004).

A coordinator at the Indigenous People's Development Centre (IPDC) in Malaysia expressed the opinion that relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims are viewed negatively in Malaysia (9 June 2004). The representative of the Murtads from Malaysia expressed the opinion that Muslim dating was frowned upon whether the partners were both Muslim or not (10 June 2004). In addition, cohabitation without marriage (common-law marriages/partnerships) is not allowed in Islam and is frowned upon by Malaysian society in general (Murtads 10 June 2004). These opinions could not be corroborated by other sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Information regarding the likelihood of a non-Muslim man being threatened by the members of his Muslim girlfriend's family could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Information on state protection for non-Muslim men threatened by the family members of his Muslim girlfriend could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, there were articles about the situation of non-Muslim women married to Muslim men, including cases in which the men had converted to Islam in order to divorce their wives and/or gain custody of their children (WAO 6 May 2004). Some women's groups have expressed concern at the apparently inequitable nature of Islamic family law (ibid.; Sisters in Islam 29 May 2003).

Country Reports 2003 reported that although the Malaysian government has provided shelters and assistance to battered spouses, "activists asserted that support mechanisms for victims of domestic violence remained inadequate" (25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 2c). It was not clear if such assistance would be restricted to spouses, or whether it would be available to men threatened by family members of their girlfriends.

Information was scarce as to whether police discriminate against people due to the religious affinity of the complainants. The representative of the IPDC had heard of such allegations, but suggested that drawing attention to the problem might cause complainants to keep silent (9 June 2004). Country Reports 2003 indicated that ethnic-Malay Muslims are given preferential treatment in various areas as a result of official polices of the government of Malaysia (25 Feb. 2004).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003. 25 February 2004. "Malaysia." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 9 June 2004]

Embassy of the United States, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. n.d. "Civil Marriage Procedures in Malaysia." [Accessed 9 June 2004]

Expert Law. January 2004. "Overview Of Shari'a and Prevalent Customs In Islamic Societies - Divorce and Child Custody." [Accessed 9 June 2004]

_____. n.d. "About Expert Law." [Accessed 16 June 2004]

High Commission of Malaysia. 21 June 2004. Telephone interview with representative.

_____. 4 June 2004. Telephone interview with representative.

Indigenous People's Development Centre (IPDC). 9 June 2004. Correspondence from representative.

International Religious Freedom Report 2003. 18 December 2003. "Malaysia." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 9 June 2004]

Murtads for Malaysia. 10 June 2004. Correspondence from representative.

_____. n.d. Website. [Accessed 16 June 2004]

Sisters In Islam. 29 May 2003. "Violation of Muslim Women's Human Rights: Further Discrimination Against Muslim Women Under the Selangor Islamic Family Law Bill 2003 Through Selective Gender Neutral Provisions." [Accessed 9 June 2004]

Women's Aid Organisation (WAO). 6 May 2004. "Joint Press Release: Building Consensus." [Accessed 9 June 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: All Women's Action Society (AWAM), Answering Islam, Apostates of Islam, Asia News.it, Asia Week.com, Bar Council Malaysia, Bismika Allahuma, Canadian Society of Muslims, Daily Express, Human Rights Watch, Institute of Islamist Political Thought, Islam online, Islamic Voice, Malaysia.net, Malaysiakini, Malaysian Government Services Online, Suaram, Tenaganita, Women's Development Collective.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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