Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Church lawyers to press for early date on Allah issue pending at Federal Court

BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
DECEMBER 04, 2013
The Catholic Church's legal team is seeking an early date for the Federal Court to hear its leave application. - The Malaysian Insider pic, December 4, 2013.The Catholic Church's legal team is seeking an early date for the Federal Court to hear its leave application. - The Malaysian Insider pic, December 4, 2013.The Catholic Church tomorrow will urge the Federal Court to give them an early date to hear its leave application to appeal against the ruling on the use of the word Allah.
Lawyer S. Selvarajah,  a member in the church's legal team, said they would request the leave application to be heard soon on grounds of public interest and also to bring a closure to the matter.
"We will make this request during the case management tomorrow," he told The Malaysian Insider.
The church had earlier served the legal papers on Putrajaya and seven other Muslim organisations.
Selvarajah said he received a letter from the Federal Court registry last week requesting all parties to the application to be present tomorrow.
On November 12,  the church filed its leave application to appeal against the Court of Appeal ruling by submitting 26 questions on the Federal Constitution, administrative law as well as the power of the court to allow the Home Minister to ban the use of a theological word.
The constitutional questions framed by the church's lawyers were to debate on Islam as the religion of the federation, freedom of speech, religion and the right to religious education.
The questions on administrative law centred on the home minister's power.
They also pointed out that the minister's decision to ban the Catholic weekly, Herald, from using the word Allah was illegal and irrational.
The church has also raised issues on the power of the court to allow the minister to ban the word based on theology.
Veteran lawyer and Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Sigh had said that church lawyers could use a Federal Court rule and apply to Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria to hear the case urgently.
On October 14, a three-member bench led by Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali allowed Putrajaya's appeal on the banning of the word Allah from the Herald as there was a 1986 directive by the Home Ministry which prohibited non-Muslim publications from using four words – Allah, Kaabah, Solat and Baitullah.
The Herald has been in publication since 1994 and ministry officials had admonished the publisher and issued showcause letters for its failure to comply with the directive.
Apandi in his judgment said the reason for the prohibition was to protect the sanctity of Islam and prevent any confusion among Muslims.
He also ruled that if the word is allowed to be used by Christians, it could threaten national security and public order.
Further to that, the court said the prohibition was reasonable on grounds that the word Allah was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice.
The decision sparked an outcry among Christians, and other non-Muslims, in the peninsula and East Malaysia.

In 2009 the Herald filed a judicial review in the High Court to challenge the home minister's order.
Judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan subsequently quashed the home minister's order, ruling that the ban had violated the constitutional rights of the publisher.

However, constitutional lawyers said Putrajaya's successful appeal to ban the publisher of Herald from using the word Allah in its publication also nullified the Cabinet's decision that allowed Christians nationwide to use the word in the Malay version of the Bible.
They also said that the Court of Appeal ruling prevented all non-Muslim publications from using the word due to the broad principle established.
Following the Court of Appeal ruling, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said Christians in Sabah and Sarawak could continue to use the word and the government would honour its 10-point resolution.
Under the agreement in 2011, it was agreed that Bibles in all languages can be imported into the country, including those in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia which contained the word Allah.
The 10-point resolution allowed for the printing, importation and distribution of the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible.
Lawyer Fahri Azzat, commenting on the court’s decision, had said that since Allah “was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice", the word became the monopoly of Muslims and the Islamic faith in this country.
He said the Court of Appeal ruling affected the Herald, a publication in the peninsula, but the effect is on the entire federation. – December 4, 2013.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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