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'Allah' appeal filed at Malay rulers' request, says ex-FT mufti

Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri who served as the religious affairs minister in 2021 says a lot of hard work was put in by Islamic experts before the appeal was filed against the High Court decision.

Staff Writers
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Muslims pray at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Bernama
Muslims pray at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Bernama

The former federal territories mufti has spoken out against Putrajaya's move to drop its appeal against the High Court's ruling allowing Christians to use the word "Allah" in their religious publications, saying the government's decision in 2021 to challenge it was based on decrees from the sultans of Selangor and Johor.

Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri also said that the fatwa committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia (MKI), a body tasked with issuing national-level fatwas (decrees) in consultation with Malay rulers, had in 2008 declared that terms such as "Allah", "baitullah", "kaabah" and "solat" were exclusive to Islam.

"So much hard work was put in by the muftis and MKI's consultation committee to discuss in many meetings with NGOs, as well as for the preparation of papers involving many experts and academic figures," said Zulkifli, who was the minister in charge of Islamic affairs when the appeal was filed in 2021 against the High Court decision.

"It was made due to awareness of the need for the words ‘Allah’, ‘baitullah’, ‘kaabah’ and ‘solat’ to remain the property of Muslims in Malaysia. Once everything was completed, I presented it to the Cabinet followed by the start of the appeal process by the previous federal government through the home ministry," he added.

In March 2021, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that Christians could use "Allah" as well as "baitullah", "kaabah" and "solat" in their religious publications for educational purposes, in a decision favouring Sarawak native Christian Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, who filed a judicial review to challenge a directive by the home ministry in 1986.

Putrajaya swiftly filed an appeal against the ruling.

Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail was today quoted as saying that the government had decided to withdraw the appeal, saying this was informed to the Cabinet several months ago. 

"It is a position taken by the home ministry, and I had to inform the Cabinet, which I did a few months ago," he said, adding that details on the decision would be given later.

Meanwhile, Zulkifli, quoting a Quranic verse on seeking divine help, said he hoped the "Madani government through the home ministry" would be able to shed light on its latest decision.

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