Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Herald: Appeals Court Reserves Judgment On Government Appeal

By Jocelyn Ann Dragon

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 10 (Bernama) -- The Court of Appeal here on Tuesday reserved its judgment on the appeal brought by the home ministry and the government against a High Court decision in allowing the Catholic weekly publication, The Herald, to use the word "Allah".

A three-member panel chaired by Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali indicated that the court would deliver its judgment by October.

Justice Mohamed Apandi said the court deferred its decision to a date to be fixed later as they needed time to study the submissions, various documents and enclosures.

"We will give our full written judgment. We won't take too long. We take judicial notice of the crowd outside the court which itself shows the sensitivity of the case," said Apandi who presided on the panel with Justices Datuk Abdul Aziz Abd Rahim and Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh.

On Feb 16, 2010, the church filed a judicial review application naming the home ministry and the government as respondents, seeking, among others, a declaration that the ministry's decision to prohibit the use of the word "Allah" in The Herald publication was illegal.

The weekly, published in four languages, has been using the word "Allah" to refer to "God" in its Malay-language section, specially to cater for the people in Sabah and Sarawak.

On Dec 31, 2009, the High Court declared the decision by the home ministry prohibiting The Herald from using the word as illegal, null and void.

The government then appealed to the Court of Appeal.

In today's proceedings, the court heard submissions from senior federal counsel Suzana Atan representing the government, lawyers for six state Islamic religious councils, the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association and lawyers for the Catholic Church.

Suzana said the home minister had banned the use of the word "Allah" in the Bahasa Malaysia version of The Herald on grounds of national security and public order.

She submitted that the prohibition was ordered as it touched on Islamic religious sensitivity.

Suzana said the use of the word "Allah" in the Bahasa Malaysia version of The Herald as an interpretation of the word God might cause confusion, hurt religious sensitivity and create disharmony between the Muslims and Christians.

"The term 'Allah' is not just a mere word or translation of the word God as described in The Herald.

"The Muslim community in this country is very sensitive about religious issues, especially on the use of the word 'Allah'. This is because if one refers to Allah, it refers to God for Muslims.

"The word 'Allah' is very sacred to Muslims and is placed on the highest position and that its sanctity must be protected.

"Kalimah Allah refers to 'oneness' and cannot be part of the concept of Trinity of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost," she explained.

Suzana said the home minister had acted with "absolute discretion" to bar the publication from using the word "Allah" and that his discretionary power was by law conferred on him, and that the court must be cautious in reviewing decisions of such nature.

Suzana said the home minister had also acted legally and constitutionally in accordance with the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 to come to the decision to restrict the publication from using the word.

She said the minister had also taken into account relevant considerations such as public safety and public order, the various enactments on control and restrictions on the propagation of religious doctrine or belief among Muslims, government policies and religious sensitivities.

There was no evidence that the minister had acted in bad faith or had acted unreasonably, she said, adding that the ban was actually a pre-emptive measure by the minister.

Lawyer Mubashir Mansor, representing the Terengganu State Islamic Religious Council, noted that The Herald had gone online, hence accessible to Muslims.

There was an enactment in Terengganu banning the use of the word by non-Muslims, he said, adding that the enactment was aimed to stop non-Muslims from propagating their religions to Muslims.

Lawyer Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, for the Selangor Islamic Religious Council, submitted that there was no usage of the word "Allah" in the English version of the Bible.

Hence, he said, it was inappropriate to equate the translation of God as Allah which referred to the Muslim God.

He said Islam enjoyed a special position in the Federal Constitution and that Islamic matters came under the purview of the states and under Putrajaya for the federal territories.


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