Malaysia’s Plural Legal System

I was talking to the external examiner about the access to justice for Muslim women in Malaysia and noticed how superficial my knowledge are on Syariah law. Malaysia has a plural legal system that is contributed by the separation of Muslim customary and family law (Syariah law) to the common law.

All I can share with him is that in Malaysia there are differences in the legal treatment of family and matrimonial matters between Muslim and non Muslim. For Muslim, implementing Syariah law in toto is an obligation in the context of practicing Islam as the way of life. For non-Muslim, provision under Article 121 of the Federal Constitution gives an exclusive right for them to practice the secular matrimonial matters. Though both seen to be as zero sum game, when there is a conflict most judges will refer to the Federal Constitution of the country for reference.

Like it or not, there are some grey areas in relation to the relationship between Muslim and non-Muslim in case of divorce, the custody of children and the issue of one partner goes back to the original religion.

I believe I should read more on this as the subject matter and I would like to encourage my students to dwell further into these issues.

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