SHAH ALAM, June 23 ― Religious authorities in Selangor have been vindicated by the Federal Court decision not to hear an appeal brought by a Christian publication seeking to overturn a ban on using the word “Allah” to refer to God, according to Malay rights group Perkasa.
Selangor Perkasa chief Abu Bakar Yahya said that the latest developments surrounding the use of the word “Allah” proved that there was a need to amend laws to strengthen the roles of the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) and the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais).
Early this year, the Islamic authorities in Selangor seized Malay and Iban language bibles from a Christian group because the books use the word “Allah” to refer to God. The Islamic authorities have refused to return the books even though the Attorney General decided not to press charges against the Christian group.
“We are of the view that there is a need to strengthen the role of Mais and Jais in Selangor. Laws should be made to allow them better enforcement powers in safeguarding Islam,” he told reporters here in front of the Istana Kayangan.
Some 300 Perkasa members had gathered since 11am to support Mais’ and Jais’ decision to seize the holy books from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) on January 2.
“The federal court ruling sides with us, shows that Islam is true, and that what Jais and Mais has been doing followed the law,” Abu Bakar added.
Malaysia’s highest court ruled today that the Catholic newspaper the Herald has no grounds to appeal a lower court decision preventing it from using the word “Allah” to refer to God.
The landmark decision on a divisive issue has fuelled intense debate and heightened religious tensions in the country, brings to an end the Catholic Church’s challenge in the Malaysian court system.
A seven-member bench at the Federal Court decided by a narrow 4-to-3 majority to deny the Catholic paper the right of appeal.
Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who was also present stressed that true Muslims could not “compromise” when it came to matters of faith.
“The ‘Allah’ issue has been settled this morning. They (the Herald) can no longer appeal... let us move on,” he said to cheers of “Allahuakbar!” (God is great.)
The Sultan of Selangor has instructed the state’s religious authorities to use the courts to settle the imbroglio stemming from the refusal to return over 300 copies of the bible seized from BSM.
Mais and its enforcement unit, Jais, are seeking a court ruling to enable them to dispose of the Christian holy books.
The council has insisted that there are grounds to “prosecute” BSM under the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988, contrary to Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail’s decision not to press charges against the Christian bookstore.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak previously urged Mais to refer the matter to the AG if it believed the decision not to prosecute BSM should be reviewed, but insisted that Abdul Gani’s decision on the issue should prevail.
Jais seized the bibles during a raid on the BSM headquarters in the state on January 2, and has kept hold of them since.