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Monday October 14, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday October 14, 2013 MYT 10:05:56 AM
by qishin tariq
(From left) Mohd Zawawi and Abdul Aziz.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Court of Appeal will decide today if Catholic weekly The Herald can use the term ‘Allah’ in its Malay edition.
The Court of Appeal had reserved judgment on the Government’s appeal after the conclusion of submissions on Sept 10.
It had heard submissions from lawyers for the Home Ministry and the Government, interested Muslim groups and the Catholic Church.
The three-man panel, comprising Justice Mohamed Apandi Ali, who was elevated to Federal Court on Sept 30, Justice Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Justice Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim, is expected to deliver its decision today.
The dispute on the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims started when the Home Ministry prohibited the publication to use the word as a condition for permit renewal issuance in 2007.
On Feb 16, 2009, the Church filed for a judicial review of the ministry’s decision and, on Dec 31, 2009, the High Court declared the decision by the ministry was illegal, null and void.
The court also ruled the term ‘Allah’ was not exclusive to Muslims and use by the Christians was protected under the Federal Constitution as long as it was not used to preach to Muslims.
The Home Ministry and Government then appealed against the decision.
A rash of attacks against Churches – from vandalism to arson - broke out in the aftermath of the decision, a reaction believed to stem from certain groups that believed that the word should only be used to refer to the Muslim God.
The Herald editor Rev Father Lawrence Andrew said the publication had not used ‘Allah’ in the interim as the Government had been granted a stay against the execution while the appeal was still ongoing.
“Should the decision favour the Church, it would be a recognition of religious freedom, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. In fact, the Constitution is being tarnished by such limitations,” he said.
On July 9, the Roman Catholic Archbishop filed an application to strike out the Government’s appeal, arguing that a 10-point solution signed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak on April 11, 2011, allowed the importation and publication of Bibles in all languages, including Bahasa Malaysia with the word ‘Allah’ without restriction and, by extension, The Herald, which quotes the Bible, too, should be allowed to use the word.
This was disallowed by the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the subject of the appeal was still a live issue and that the controversy had yet to be resolved.
Whatever the result of the Court of Appeal today, the parties involved in the case can present their last appeal to the Federal Court.
Catholic Lawyers Association immediate past president Joy W. Appukuttan questioned why the Government appealed the matter further after it came up with the 10-point solution.
“One must bear in mind that The Herald is a Catholic publication. It is circulated only within the Catholic community.
“The materials are spiritual and related to the Catholic faith,” he said, adding that it defeated the purpose of the 10-point solution if the Government started picking which Catholic papers could use the word.
He hoped the High Court’s decision would be maintained, saying the decision was an enormous victory for the freedom of religion.
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