[JURIST] The second highest court in Malaysia ruled Wednesday in a high-profile transgender case that Islamic law is restricted to familial matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, and the constitution [text] provides a secular federal government. The ruling [Malay Mail report] is based on the 1988 Supreme Court case, Che Omar Che Soh. The Court of Appeal cited the landmark decision, which ruled that the framers of the constitution limited “Islam” in Article 3 to familial matters. Article 3 declares Islam as the religion of Malaysia, but other religions are allowed to practice. The court opined that if Islam was to take on a greater role in federal law, there would be another provision within the constitution declaring any law contrary to Islamic law void. No such provision exists, sdo the three-judge panel reasoned that the framers of the constitution intended a narrow interpretation of “Islam.” As supporters of transgender rights praised the decision, the Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) [Malay Mail report] disagreed. The group is calling for Sharia to be incorporated into Malaysian federal law. The state of Negeri Sembilan will appeal the ruling.
The case, filed by three transgender women, challenged a Sharia law [JURIST report] in the Malay state of Negeri Sembilan prohibiting Muslim men from “posing” as women. The Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the three transgender women in November. Malaysia’s Court of Appeal in Putrajaya struck down an anti-cross-dressing law in November. Each of Malaysia’s 13 states and three federal territories have laws prohibiting a man from “posing” as a woman, and three states prohibit a woman from posing as a man. Additionally the National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia has issued fatwa against cross-dressing and sex reassignment.