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Federal Court: Only Muslims Can Be Syariah Lawyers

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PUTRAJAYA: In a landmark decision, the Federal Court ruled that only Muslims can practise as lawyers in Syariah courts.

The apex court decided on two questions of law in an appeal by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) and Attorney-General’s Chamber against the Court of Appeal’s decision to allow non-Muslim lawyers to practise Syariah law.

Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif, who chaired a five-man panel, held that Rule 10 of the Rules for Syariah Lawyers mandating that only Muslims can be admitted as Syariah lawyers did not contravene Articles 5, 8 and 10 of the Federal Constitution governing equality, liberty and right to form associations.

In the 3-2 majority decision, Justice Md Raus held that Rule 10 did not go beyond the ambit of powers granted by the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993.

While all five judges held that that Rule 10 is constitutional, two of them said it went beyond the powers of the law.

On March 17, 2011, Victoria Jayaseele Martin, who has a Masters degree in Comparative Law from the International Islamic University, lost her bid at the High Court to challenge the assertion that a Syariah lawyer in Kuala Lumpur must be a Muslim.


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