International Religious Freedom Report 2007
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the Government places some restrictions on this right. Islam is recognized in the Constitution as "the religion of the Federation," but the practice of non-Sunni Islamic beliefs was significantly restricted, and those deviating from accepted Sunni beliefs could be subjected to "rehabilitation." Non-Muslims were free to practice their religious beliefs with few restrictions.
There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report. The Government provides financial support to an Islamic religious establishment and provides more limited funds to non-Islamic religious communities. State authorities impose Islamic religious laws administered through Islamic courts on all ethnic Malays (and other Muslims) in family law and other civil matters. The Government restricts distribution of Malay-language Christian materials in Peninsular Malaysia and forbids the proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims. Muslims may generally not convert to another religion. Over the past several years, the country's civil court system has gradually ceded jurisdictional control to Shari'a courts in limited areas of family law involving disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Pursuant to Shari'a family laws in force throughout the country, non-Muslims must convert to Islam upon marrying a Muslim. In several cases during the reporting period, state religious authorities detained and attempted to religiously "rehabilitate" Muslim spouses who attempted to renounce Islam, or who married non-Muslims in churches or temples. Such marriages were not recognized by Muslim religious authorities. Children resulting from these unions were sometimes removed by Islamic religious authorities from parental custody, pending religious "rehabilitation" of the detained Muslim parent. Several leading lawyers and human rights advocates spoke out against these practices, and several related court cases remained under review at the Federal Court (the country's highest court).
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom matters with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.
Read the full report here.