The sultan of Johor says he still holds to a fatwa declaring the word "Allah" exclusive to Muslims, cautioning Putrajaya to tread carefully following its move to drop an appeal against a High Court decision allowing Christians to use the Arabic term.
"The federal government should tread carefully and as well as possible the implications of the decision because it is closely related to issues within the boundaries of Islam and the sentiments of Muslims in this country," Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said in a statement today.
Putrajaya announced last week that it was dropping its appeal to challenge a High Court decision in 2021 allowing Christians to use the word "Allah" in their religious publications.
The High Court had then ruled in favour of an application filed by a Sarawakian Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill.
She had sought a court declaration that her constitutional rights were violated when the home ministry in 2008 seized Christian religious CDs and books using the term "Allah" under Section 9(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
The government under then prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin subsequently filed an appeal against the ruling.
The move to drop the appeal sparked criticism from Muslim groups, while Muhyiddin said that the government should have allowed the court to solve the dispute.
Anwar meanwhile defended the decision, saying the prohibition on non-Muslims using the term "Allah" in their religious materials remained.
He said in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that the move to drop the appeal was made after consultation with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
He said the Agong had said that any decision must be in line with the Malay rulers council, which prohibits the word from being used by Christians in the peninsula, while giving leeway for those in the two Bornean states of Sabah and Sarawak.
Sultan Ibrahim today said that the fatwa gazetted in Johor on June 4, 2009, states that non-Muslims are prohibited from using the word "Allah".
"Johor also has the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Enactment 1991 which forbids the use of words set aside exclusively for Muslims and cannot be used by non-Muslims except in situations permitted by law, such as in the lyrics of 'Lagu Bangsa Johor'," he said.
"The regulation, control and enforcement of the word 'Allah' must be in detail without jeopardising the fatawas and state enactments, so that harmony and unity in our multiracial society is maintained."