Non-Muslims cannot become Syariah Lawyers, Court hears

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 (Bernama) -- The High Court here was today told that non-Muslims cannot become syariah lawyers as this could create confusion among Muslims.

Lawyer Sulaiman Abdullah, who is representing the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP), said the National Fatwa Council (NFC) at its meeting on Dec 15 last year ruled that for a person to become a syariah lawyer, the person must have mastered the Quran and Hadith and make Prophet Muhammad their role model.

"Syariah lawyers must also be proficient in Arabic and Islamic jurisprudence which must be based on faith to Allah so that they can discharge their responsibilities according the Islamic perspective.

"As such, to protect the sanctity of Islam, the NFC decided that non-Muslims cannot be allowed to be appointed as syariah lawyers," he said in his submission in the judicial review application filed by Victoria Jayaseele Martin, who is challenging the requirement that only a Muslim can practise as a syariah lawyer in syariah courts in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

Sulaiman further submitted that the overriding interests of Muslims was more important than the interest of an individual in this matter.

"Also based on existing legal provisions, if a non-Muslim who is allowed to practice as a syariah lawyer is later found to have been in breach of ethics or other procedures related to the syariah courts, no action can be taken because non-Muslims do not come under the jurisdiction of syariah courts," he said.

However, lawyer Ranjit Singh, who is representing Victoria, argued that his client was qualified in Islamic law and had obtained a diploma in Syariah Law and Practice from the International Islamic University, Malaysia in 2004.

He added that it was not stated in the Federal Constitution that non-Muslims cannot become syariah lawyers and only Muslims can.

Judge Datuk Rohana Yusuf set March 17 to deliver her decision.

In her judicial review application which was filed on May 19 last year, Victoria, 49, sought a certiorari (formal) order to compel MAIWP to allow her to practice as a syariah lawyer in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

She also wants the court the issue a declaration that Order 10 of the Syariah Lawyers Regulations 1993 which only allows Muslims to be accepted as syariah lawyers, to be ultra-vires Articles 5, 8 and 10 of the Federal Constitution.

This is the first case of its kind in the country.

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