KUCHING, May 16 — Human rights activist Peter John Jaban today called on Malaysians not to question the federal government’s decision not to appeal the High Court’s ruling on the use of the word Allah by Christian communities in the country.
He urged all communities to respect the religious freedom enshrined in Federal Constitution and allow Christians, especially in Sarawak, to continue their peaceful worship.
“The word Allah should not be a battleground. It should be a beacon of solidarity,” the Sarawakian who is also the deputy president of the Global Human Rights Federation of Malaysia said.
He was responding to the notice of discontinuance filed by the federal Attorney-General’s Chambers on behalf of the home minister and the Malaysian government that they have withdrawn their appeal against the High Court’s March 2021 decision, which had quashed a government ban on the use of the word Allah in all Christian publications in Malaysia.
He said the federal government’s decision respects the longstanding practices of the indigenous people of Sarawak and preserves racial and religious harmony of the nation, adding that the decision is in accordance with constitution and legal precedent instead of political pressure from special interest groups.
“This issue has been causing discord for some time, tying up an indigenous Sarawakian in court for many years and also forcing the courts to decide ownership of a word which has been used in good faith in Sarawak and Sabah for 400 years,” he said.
He said the High Court’s ruling allowing the word Allah to be used in a non-Muslim context has affirmed the feelings, sentiments, and appreciation of the true meaning of the word for all, especially among Sarawakian natives.
Jaban said the court’s ruling has caused much joy among the Dayak Christian community in Sarawak and Sabah as there are some 2.6 million Christians who have been using the word Allah to refer to God in sermons, hymns, prayers, public gathering or literature.
He recalled that former chief minister the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem had made clear nearly a decade ago that using the word Allah in a non-Muslim context had never been an issue in Sarawak.
“Now that we have a unity government and Malaysia Madani in place, it is encouraging to see that policy is becoming more inclusive to all faiths and that the Home Ministry has decided to respect the ruling of the court,” Jaban said.