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Legal cases involving non-Muslims do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Shari’ah Courts, Malaysia’s top court has ruled in a landmark verdict that drew a line after a spate of high-profile cases that left many in a legal limbo.
The Federal Court ruled that civil courts have jurisdiction in disputes between a Muslim and a non-Muslim on family and Islamic matters. Justice Abdul Hamid said the parliament must resolve the jurisdiction tussle between civil and Shari’ah courts. He said that unlike the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal and High Court, the Shari’ah court was not created by the Constitution. Justice Abdul Hamid said the state legislature has the right to determine the jurisdiction of the Shari’ah court as
the Shari’ah courts will have no jurisdiction if the state legislature did not pass an enactment to give them the power.
Race and religion are touchy issues in multi-racial Malaysia, where ethnic Malays form about 60 percent of a population of roughly 26 million, while Hindus, Buddhists and Christians dominate the ethnic Indian and Chinese minorities. A Malay is defined in the Constitution as "a person who professes the religion of Islam."