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PM negligent in claiming 'Allah' ruling only for Sarawak, says Hamzah

The opposition leader also reminds Anwar Ibrahim of his role in a federal committee tasked with deciding words that are off-limits for non-Muslim publications.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Former home minister, Hamzah Zainudin. Photo: Bernama
Former home minister, Hamzah Zainudin. Photo: Bernama

Former home minister Hamzah Zainudin has become the latest to question Putrajaya's decision to drop its appeal against a 2021 high court decision allowing the term "Allah" to be used in Christian publications, as government leaders defended the move which subsequently sparked angry reactions from Muslim groups.

The opposition leader took Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to task for saying that the 2021 high court ruling favouring Sarawak Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, who mounted a challenge against the customs' confiscation of her Christian religious material containing the word "Allah" in 2008, was only applicable in Sarawak.

Hamzah said the incident where Jill's material was confiscated took place in Selangor. 

"The confiscation of eight CDs containing Christian material with the word 'Allah' on May 11, 2008, took place at the low-cost carrier terminal in Sepang, not in Sarawak, and the Kuala Lumpur High Court's decision to grant the three certioraris was not limited to Sarawak," he said.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court in its decision in 2021 affirmed Jill's constitutional right to education and to practise her religion, and her constitutional guarantee against discrimination on religious grounds. 

It also declared the home ministry's prohibition on the use of the word "Allah" in Christian publications as unlawful and unconstitutional.

The ruling was followed by an appeal filed by the home ministry, then headed by Hamzah under the Perikatan Nasional government led by Muhyiddin Yassin.

The seizure by the home ministry was carried out under Section 9(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

Hamzah reminded Anwar that as a federal minister in 1986, the latter, alongside the late Ghafar Baba and James Peter Ongkili were part of a committee tasked with deciding on terms that cannot be used in other religious publications.

"He should have understood more about the sensitivity and avoid such misleading statements that could lead to greater harm," he added.

Hamzah said Anwar's explanation that the court ruling was only applicable in Sarawak showed the prime minister was negligent and did not bother to examine the judgment.

Echoing Muhyiddin, Hamzah said the "Allah" dispute should take its course in the country's courts so that any final decision should be respected.

"The question is, why is it that the PH-BN coalition government suddenly does not want to allow the legal and judicial process based on the constitution? 

"Why was the legal and judicial process blocked and why did the home minister act without waiting for the Court of Appeal's decision first, as the issue of the term 'Allah' is extremely sensitive?" he asked.