The Catholic Church will argue that the Najib administration’s appeal against a High Court decision allowing a church newspaper to use the word “Allah” should be struck out because it is irrational and illogical.
A source familiar with the case told The Malaysian Insider that the appeal was an academic and futile exercise by the government.
The reason: a list of promises given by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in April 2011 just before the Sarawak state elections explicitly allowed Catholics to use the word “Allah”.
With one eye on the Christian vote in the East Malaysian state, Najib offered a 10-point solution to the problems faced by Christians in practising their religion freely as provided under the Federal Constitution.
Among other things, the prime minister said Christians were free to bring in and use Malay-language Bibles.
These Bibles contained the word “Allah” and had previously been seized by the authorities, sparking outrage by Christians in Sabah and Sarawak who worship in Bahasa Malaysia and had used the word “Allah” for centuries.
The position taken by the Catholic Church is that given that the 10-point solution allows the importation of books where the word “Allah” is used, it is illogical for the government to challenge its use in the Catholic Herald, a weekly publication for the flock.
The church filed an application on Monday to strike out the government’s appeal- the latest saga in the long-drawn battle between the church and the state over the right to use the word “Allah”.
The controversy began when the then Home Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar signed an order prohibiting the Herald from using the word “Allah” in its publication.
This led to a suit by Archbishop Murphy Pakiam in March 2009 in which he named the home ministry and the government as respondents.
Among other things, the church sought a declaration that Syed Hamid’s decision was illegal and that the word “Allah” was not exclusive to Islam.
On Dec 31, 2009, judge Lau Bee Lan allowed the church’s judicial review application and lifted the home minister’s ban, declaring that the minister’s ban was illegal.
The weekly, published in four languages, has been using the word “Allah” as a translation for God in its Malay-language section, but the government argued that “Allah” should be used exclusively by Muslims.
Meanwhile, lawyer S. Selvaraja, a counsel for the church, said today that the Court of Appeal would notify all parties soon on the date to hear the striking out application.
Earlier, he had attended case management before the court registrar.
Though the Catholic Church brought the suit against the government, other Christians and even the Sikh community have made it clear that the word “Allah” should not be exclusively for Muslims, pointing out its long usage in Malaysia and other countries.