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Malaysia: Ex-Muslim Finally Allowed to Legally Be a Christian

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There is new hope for ex-Muslim converts to Christianity in Malaysia after the recent landmark ruling allowed a Muslim man to officially renounce Islam and legally embrace Christianity.

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, told CBN News he's cautiously optimistic that people in Malaysia will be free to choose their own religion after this historic court ruling.

The court ruled that 41-year-old Rooney Rebit, formerly known as Azmi Mohamad Azam Shah, could be identified as a Christian. Rebit was "converted to Islam" by his parents at the age of 10.

"The importance of this decision to Christians in Malaysia cannot be overstated and ACS is thankful to the High Court for coming to a fair and just decision in accordance with the law," Malaysian Association of Churches Sarawak Secretary-general Ambrose Linang told World Watch Monitor:

Most Malays are Muslim. Census figures show about 10 percent of the nation identifies as Christian.

Living as a Christian in Malaysia can carry severe risks and suffering. CBN News Correspondent Gary Lane reported from Malaysia on an isolated encampment where some Christian converts say they were taken to be forced back to Islam. The Malaysian government calls the facilities "retreat centers." Watch that story below.

In the Rebit case, the court cited Article 11 of the Malaysian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.

Rebit, who is a part of the Bidayuh ethnicity, was forced to convert to Islam as a child after his parents converted from Christianity.

Since it was never Rebit's choice to embrace Islam, the judge ruled Rebit can't be considered a person who officially professed Islam. The court also considered that Rebit was baptized as a Christian in 1999, when he was able to make a mature decision about his faith.

The judge ordered the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department and the Sarawak Islamic Council to issue a letter signifying Rebit's release from Islam.

The court ordered the state government to ensure that Rebit's identification card and government records at the nation's registry show that he is a Christian and for his name to be legally changed to Rooney Anak Rebit.

Christian-Muslim Tension Mounts in Malaysia

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CBN News is a national/international, nonprofit news organization that provides programming 24 hours a day by cable, satellite and the Internet. Staffed by a group of acclaimed news professionals, CBN News delivers stories to over a million viewers each day without a specific agenda. With its headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va., CBN News has bureaus in Washington D.C., Jerusalem, and elsewhere around the world. What began as a segment on CBN's flagship program, The 700 Club, in the early 1980s, CBN News has since expanded into a multimedia news organization that offers today's news headlines