Christian churches insist on right to ‘Allah’ despite apex court ruling

CFM said it would hold Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and Putrajaya accountable for a statement by the top lawyer on October 20, 2013 that the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the government ban on the Arabic word 'Allah' in the Herald was confined to the weekly. — Reuters pic
CFM said it would hold Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and Putrajaya accountable for a statement by the top lawyer on October 20, 2013 that the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the government ban on the Arabic word 'Allah' in the Herald was confined to the weekly. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 — Christians still have the right to refer to God as “Allah” in their bibles and church services as the Federal Court ruling should be limited to the Catholic Church weekly, the Herald, the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) said today.

CFM, an umbrella body representing churches nationwide, said it would hold Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and Putrajaya accountable for a statement by the top lawyer on October 20, 2013 that the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the government ban on the Arabic word “Allah” in the Herald was confined to the weekly.

“Given the refusal to grant the Roman Catholic Church leave to appeal, we will, in proceeding with our actions and activities, therefore treat the decision of the Court of Appeal as being confined to the specific facts of that particular case, and otherwise maintain that the Christian community continues to have the right to use the word ‘Allah’ in our bibles, church services and Christian gatherings in our ongoing ministry to our Bahasa Malaysia-speaking congregations, as we have done all this while,” CFM chairman Rev Dr Eu Hong Seng said in a statement today.

This morning, the Federal Court rejected the Catholic Church’s application to appeal against a government ban on the word “Allah” in its weekly, the Herald.

The decision leaves intact the Court of Appeal ruling last year that the Herald cannot use the word ‘Allah.’

Eu expressed his disappointment at the country’s highest court in upholding the decision by the Court of Appeal in the Herald case.

“We continue to maintain that the decision of the Court of Appeal, and its reasoning in arriving at their decision, were so critically flawed in so many respects. Simple justice would have mandated an appeal, to rectify the many incorrect and inaccurate statements and observations of the Court of Appeal that led to its decision,” he said.

Eu also said that the church would look continue to pursue its arguments in other similar cases pending in court.

Last month, the High Court struck out Sabah Sidang Injil Borneo’s (SIB) 2007 lawsuit against the Home Ministry for confiscating three boxes of Malay-language Christian publications that contained the word “Allah”.

A lawsuit brought by Sarawakian Christian Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill against the Home Ministry for seizing in 2008 her personal compact discs (CD) containing the word “Allah” is also pending.

The Court of Appeal ruled last year that “Allah” was not integral to the Christian faith and that the home minister was justified in banning the Herald from using the Arabic word on grounds of national security and public order.

“Serious negative repercussions for the freedom of religion for the Christian community in Malaysia as a whole emanate from those statements and observations, but sadly the Roman Catholic Church has been denied the opportunity of challenging them before our apex court,” said Eu.

A seven-member bench at the Federal Court had decided by a 4-to-3 majority to deny the Catholic Church the right of appeal.

Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria, Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and Federal Court judge Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar had rejected the Catholic Church’s application.

The dissenting judges were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, and Federal Court judges Datuk Zainun Ali and Tan Sri Jeffrey Tan. 

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