Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Appeal Court ruling is clear, Allah for Muslims only, say constitutional lawyers

OCTOBER 29, 2013
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Joseph Kurup are among cabinet members who say Christians could use Allah in their worship. - The Malaysian Insider pic, October 29, 2013.Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Joseph Kurup are among cabinet members who say Christians could use Allah in their worship. - The Malaysian Insider pic, October 29, 2013.Let the debate end. Non-Muslims in Malaysia cannot use the word Allah, say constitutional lawyers.
The reason: the Court of Appeal decision which states that the word Allah is exclusive to Muslims overrides the Cabinet's 10-point solution made in 2011 which allowed that bibles in all languages can
be imported into the country, including those in Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia.
As such, statements by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Datuk Seri Idris Jala and others assuring Sabahan and Sarawakian Christians that they can still use the word Allah in the Al-Kitab were not valid.
"Those statements were merely rhetoric to appease Christians and it ran contrary to the court ruling," constitutional lawyer Fahri Azzat told The Malaysian Insider.
Lawyers said that while the court battle was between Putrajaya and the publisher of the Herald, the principle established in that Court of Appeal decision affected all non-Muslim publications.
He pointed to the Court of Appeal decision that the Herald was prohibited from using the word because the court held that "Allah" was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice.
"This clearly meant that the word was the monopoly of Muslims and the Islamic faith in this country.
"In other words, non-Muslims cannot use the word in any publication, including in the Al-Kitab, the Malay version of the bible," he said.
Apart from the Prime Minister, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup had said Christians in the peninsula could use Allah in their worship.
Kurup, however, was countered by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz who insisted that Christians from Sabah and Sarawak could not use the word Allah in the peninsula.
To further add to the confusion yesterday, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zaid Hamidi said the publisher of Herald could not use the word "Allah" even in Sabah and Sarawak.
Idris Jala, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, muddied the issue even further when in Kuching yesterday, questioning why the latest edition of the Herald was stopped from being distributed in Sabah over the weekend.
He insisted the 10-point solution still stands.
He further insisted the prime minister made it abundantly clear that Christians in the two East Malaysian states could continue to have publications containing the word Allah and the seizure of the Herald should not have happened.
Lawyers, however, argued that such political statements were insignificant as they were inferior to the court ruling.
R. Kengadharan said the court ruling had an overwhelming effect on the Cabinet decision made in 2011.
"The executive decision is now inferior and of no significance," said the lawyer, adding that Najib's statement to East Malaysians was hollow at best.
He said legally all those who spoke contrary to the court ruling or diluted the judicial pronouncement, showed disrespect to the judiciary.
Lawyer Edmund Bon (pic, left) agreed and noted that the only way out of this mess was through an appeal to the Federal Court to decide on this matter once and for all.
He said hopefully the apex court will reinstate the High Court ruling in 2009 which runs parallel with the 10-point solution, that the word Allah could be used by Christians.
Another solution was for the home minister to revoke a 1986 ministerial order which banned the word Allah from being used in non-Muslim publications.
This point was also highlighted by the former attorney general Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman who had said the revocation of the ministerial order would have gone in tandem with the prime minister's assurance that Christians in East Malaysia can use the word Allah in their worship
and publications. – October 29, 2013.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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