Thursday, April 22, 2021

High Court rules Christians can use ‘Allah’ in religious publications

Judge Nor Bee Ariffin says the 1986 directive by the home ministry barring the use of 'Allah' and three other words is filled with illegality and irrationality.

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The High Court in Kuala Lumpur today ruled that Christians nationwide can use the word “Allah” and three other Arabic words in their religious publications for educational purposes.

The three other words are “Baitullah”, “Kaabah” and “solat”.

This comes as Court of Appeal judge Nor Bee Ariffin, sitting as a High Court judge, allowed a judicial review application by Sarawak native Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill.

In her application, Jill Ireland had sought among others a declaration that it is her constitutional right to have access to Christian publications in the exercise of her rights to practise her religion and right to education, as provided for under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

She also wanted the court to declare the home ministry’s 1986 circular banning the word “Allah” in Christian publications as unconstitutional and unlawful.

Nor Bee in her ruling held that the 1986 directive by the home ministry barring the use of the four words was filled with illegality and irrationality.

“The use of the words would not disrupt public order,” she said.

Nor Bee added that the words could be used by the community for teaching purposes as they have been in use for more than 400 years.

When contacted, senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan, who acted for the home ministry and the government, confirmed that the four words can be used by Christians in their religious publications.

“However, publications that contain the four words must carry a disclaimer that they are intended for Christians only as well as a cross symbol,” he said.

The legal battle over the matter started 13 years ago after Jill Ireland commenced the judicial review application on Aug 20, 2008 for the return of eight CDs seized from her on May 11, 2008, upon her arrival at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang.

The CDs were titled “Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, “Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” and “Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah”.

She filed the judicial review application to challenge the seizure of the CDs, seeking a declaration of her constitutional rights in relation to the use of the word “Allah” in Christian publications.

The High Court in July 2014 held that the home ministry was wrong to seize the CDs and ordered that they be returned. However, it did not decide on the constitutional issues raised by Jill Ireland.

In June 2015, the Court of Appeal directed the home ministry to return the CDs after dismissing the the appeal by the home ministry and the government.

The Court of Appeal in the ruling also remitted the matter back to the High Court for hearing on the constitutional issues.

The High Court was supposed to pronounce its verdict in 2018 but this was postponed several times due to various grounds.

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