It’s confirmed - Catholic weekly The Herald cannot use the word ‘Allah’ in the publication to refer to ‘God’.

The Court of Appeal in Putrajaya today unanimously over-ruled the landmark decision by the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
NONEIn an immediate response, The Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew (left in photo) expressed disappointment, but said there are plans to lodge an appeal with the Federal Court.

The Home Ministry and government had appealed against the lower court’s decision to allow the word to be used in the publication.

Recently-elevated Federal Court judge Justice Mohamed Apandi Ali, sitting with Justices Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim and Mohd Zawawi Salleh from the Court of Appeal, allowed the appeal.

Justice Mohamed Apandi said the KL High Court was wrong in disturbing the home minister's decision and that there has been no infringement of the right of Catholics to use the word ‘Allah’ in The Herald.

"It is our common finding that use of the name 'Allah' is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity," he said, reading out a summary judgment.

"From such finding, we find no reason why the respondent (Archbishop Titular Catholic Church) is so adamant on using the name 'Allah' in the weekly publication. Such use if allowed will inevitably cause confusion within the community."

Justice Apandi went on to cite Latin terms to mean that the safety of the public and of the state is the supreme law, and co-exists with the doctrine that the welfare of an individual or group must yield to that of the community.

“It is also our reading this is how the element of ‘in peace and harmony’ in Article 3(1) of the federal constitution is to be read with freedom of religion in Article 11(1) of the constitution,” he said.

He also said the court is satisfied that the home minister had acted correctly in discharging his statutory duty under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

“There is sufficient evidence to show that the subjective decision was derived by considering all facts and circumstances in an objective manner. Thus there is no plausible reason for the High Court to interfere with the minister's decision,” he said.
“All orders pursuant to judicial review are set aside, and there is no order as to costs,” he said.

Decision causes confusion

While the Muslim community chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) outside the courtroom in rejoice, today’s decision by the Court of Appeal may cause confusion and apprehension among the Christian community, especially those in Sabah and Sarawak where there is an estimated 1.6 million Christians there, with some using the word ‘Allah’ for generations.

In April 2011, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in allowing the 10-point solution, had allowed the publication and importation of Bahasa Indonesia/Bahasa Malaysia Bibles to be used by the Christian community just before the Sarawak elections.

While Father Lawrence sees the decision as only binding on The Herald publication, the Council of Churches Malaysia general-secretary Hermen Shastri sees beyond it due to Justice Apandi's statement that “Allah is not an integral part of the Christian faith and practise”.

“The decision today is as if the court had written off the Christian community in the Middle East who have been using the word ‘Allah’. He (the judge) has no competence to make a judgment on that.”

Hermen also said while the court says the minister was right (in the ban) as there could be a problem of security if the usage is allowed, he questioned where was the right of the minorities in the country.

“Just because of the majority, the minority have to fall into place, is it? This is the same government that has brought about the 10-point solution. They have not been withdrawn, so how can the judge say this?”

“This is causing confusion to the minority religious community. They have not banned the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Bibles as they are imported, what is it saying now?” he said.

Allah used by Jews, Christians and Muslims

PAS, Hermen said, has come out to say like many other Muslims around the world that the use of ‘Allah’ is used by Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Middle East.

“We should not fight over the name of the word Allah. It is a sad day,” he said, adding that Christians would continue to pray with the Bibles they have.

Hermen also hoped there will be a political will on the part of the government to resolve this as this would affect the 1.6 million Christians in Sabah and Sarawak who now may ask what kind of signal it is giving, following the 10-point solution.

Lawrence, in commenting, said we are disappointed and dismayed over the decision following the government’s 10-point solution, in not allowing the usage be extended from Indonesian/Bahasa Malaysia Bibles to other Christian publications.

“The word is exclusively for Islam. From our experience the minister’s assertion it would result in public disorder is wrong as the word had been used for centuries here and the Middle east. The Herald has been using it since 1994. It has been used among the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking people of Sabah and Sarawak for generations.”

“The decision is only applicable to The Herald as this is a judicial review application. We still feel there is a lack of appreciation of our constitutional right as we can use ‘Allah’ in the Bible and The Herald and we use it for our worshippers as well. This is interfering in our sacred service which we say is a gross injustice done to the Christian community,” he said.

He said this is a step backwards to the development of the law in the country, especially to the fundamental liberties of the religious minorities here.

The Herald Catholic weekly is published in Mandarin, Tamil, English and Bahasa Malaysia.
malaysia day christian prayer 160912 hermen shastriiBesides Hermen and Lawrence, the others present were Hermen(left), former PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Md Isa and Perkasa vice-president Zulkifli Noordin.
On Dec 31, 2009, KL High Court judge Justice Lau Bee Lan had ruled that the Home Ministry’s ban on the use of the word was unlawful and unconstitutional as it violated Article 11 of the federal constitution.
Lead counsel Porres Royan and S Selvarajah indicated they will file an appeal over the decision within 30 days.

Porres said that it was unfortunate the matter had been politicised whereas in many parts of the world and other religious communities other than Islam are using 'Allah'.

“I have to study all three written judgments on whether the decision today is binding to all Christians, as what was read in court was just a summary of the decision,” he said.

On Sept 10 this year, the Home Ministry and government hadsubmitted the grounds of their appeal against the decision.

~ Malaysiakini