High Court in Malaysia allows Muslim man to drop Islam and embrace Christianity

Two copies of the Bible in Malay (L) and the Iban dialect are seen in this picture illustration taken in Kuala Lumpur January 2, 2014. | REUTERS / Samsul Said

The Malaysian High Court has ruled after 33 years that a Muslim man has the right to drop Islam and embrace Christianity.

Rooney Rebit, 44, formerly called Azmi Mohamad Azam Shah, applied to be released from Islam and be allowed to convert to Christianity. After 33 years, Justice Datuk Yew Jen Kie finally decided that he has the right to renounce the religion, in accordance with Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, The Borneo Post reports.

Rebit's parents had converted him to Islam when he was 10 years old, so he had no choice at the time. Article 11 guarantees freedom of religion, so Yew said Rebit does not freely profess the religion of Islam because he was just following his parents, Today Online explains.

In 1999, he sought to revert back to the religion he was born into, and he was baptized into Christianity. On Mar. 24, the judge ruled in Rebit's favor and said has the right to embrace his new religion since he is now an adult, the report details.

"It is within his constitutional rights to exercise freedom of religion," said Judge Yew on Thursday.

Yew ordered the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department, Sarawak Islamic Council, and the state government to issue a letter officially releasing Rebit from the religion of Islam. In addition, the judge said all records with the National Registry should reflect that his religion is now Christianity, the report relays.

The first two respondents had previously agreed to release a Letter of No Objection to Come Out From Islam, but the state government had required an order from the Syariah Court to do so.

In 2007, a similar case came up in which the apex court required the Shariah court's approval in dropping the word "Islam" from Azlina Jailani's identity card.

The ruling of the Malaysian High court was released without Rebit's presence.