In 'Allah' row, court allows SIB's judicial review bid
9:00AM Oct 1, 2014
By Hafiz Yatim
The Court of Appeal has allowed Sidang Injil Borneo's (SIB) bid to initiate a judicial review application over the use of the word 'Allah' in all publications for its congregations.
SIB is also seeking permission to import Christian religious books with the word.
The three-member Court of Appeal panel led by Justice Rohana Yusof unanimously decided to grant the leave (permission).
The other judges were Justices Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim.
"The threshold for the granting of leave is very low, that is prima facie, and we note the appellants have met the threshold and we allow leave.
"The decision of the Kuala Lumpur High Court is set aside,” Justice Rohana said.
With this, the KL High Court will hear the merits of SIB’s application, unlike previously, where it was shot down at its first instance. A mention date has been fixed for Oct 16 in Kuala Lumpur.
“The court orders that the case be remitted back to the High Court for it to be heard,” Justice Rohana said.
Previously, SIB failed to obtain leave to initiate a judicial review from the High Court inn Kuala Lumpur, resulting in this application by the church today.
The High Court on May 5 said it was bound by the Court of Appeal's decision on the case involving Catholic weekly the Heraldwhere it ruled that 'Allah' is for the exclusive use of Muslims.
Justice Rohana said while the High Court may be bound by the Court of Appeal decision then, the Federal Court had ruled the comments made are mere obiter dictum (comments made in passing and therefore not binding).
“They are no longer binding on the High Court judge now,” she said.
SIB president Jerry Dusing (left) named the Home Ministry and the government as respondents in the judicial review application, which was filed in 2007 following the seizure of the books at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal in Sepang that year.
However, before the Catholic Church's review involving the Herald, SIB president Jerry Dusing had already filed the judicial review application following the seizure of the church's religious books in August 2007.
Books returned in 2008
The books were returned in 2008, just before the general election that year, but the judicial review application was not withdrawn as Dusing said it affected the Christian community in Sabah and Sarawak and the seizure went against the agreement of the two states joining together with Malaya in forming Malaysia.
Despite the books being returned, SIB is going ahead with the judicial review application as it does not want problems in the near future as a result of this, and the use of the religious books as a pawn before each election.
Counsel for SIB Lim Heng Seng (right) submitted that while some states in Peninsular Malaysia have enacted laws barring non-Muslims from using the term ‘Allah’, there is no legislation in Sabah and Sarawak to do that.
"These Bumiputera Christians from Sabah and Sarawak have been using the word Allah for many generations in all aspects of profession and practice of their Christian faith since their upbringing and childhood.
"Hence, the home minister should not act beyond his powers to seize the books, which are for use in Sabah and Sarawak," Lim said.
SIB is seeking 13 declarations and three orders from the court and this concerns with the right to use 'Allah' in all publications used or imported for its congregations.
It also sought a declaration that the Home Ministry's prohibition of the use of the words 'Allah', 'solat', 'Kaabah' and 'Baitullah' - which are considered exclusive to Islam - is unconstitutional based on Article 3, 8, 11, 12, 74, 76 and 80.
The Catholic archbishop's review application with regard to theHerald was filed in 2009, but this was heard first and decided by the courts.
However, it is still subject for review as the archbishop has filedan application to review the Federal Court's decision last month.
Apart from the two cases, there is also the Jill Ireland matter, where the clerk’s CDs with the word 'Allah' were confiscated.
These three cases would have an impact on the rights of the majority Christian community in Sabah and Sarawak, who use 'Allah' to refer to God in their prayers and their daily life.