Hornbill Unleashed

August 22, 2013

Church’s move to strike out government’s appeal lacks merit, says Hishammuddin

Filed under: Human rights,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 5:35 AM
Tags: , , , ,

V ANBALAGAN

Putrajaya has taken the position that the Government’s 10-point solution in 2011 has nothing to do with its appeal to reverse a High Court ruling which allowed Christians to use the word “Allah” in the church newspaper, the Herald.

It said the Cabinet decision on April 11, 2011 was only to find ways to overcome problems relating to the import, printing, distribution and the use of the Bahasa Malaysia bible in the country.

“The 10-point solution in no way affects the appeal by the government on the usage of the word “Allah,” said former Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein in an affidavit in reply to an application by the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur to set aside the government’s appeal.

The Court of Appeal has fixed today to hear the Catholic church’s application to challenge the government ban on the word “Allah” to describe god in the church newspaper, the Herald.

Malay rights group Perkasa has threatened to hold a rally in Putrajaya today to support the government ban and called on Muslims to join in.

In his affidavit sighted by The Malaysian Insider, Hishammuddin said based on the 10-point solution, it was clear that the Church’s setting aside application was irrelevant, frivolous and lacked merit.

He said the Cabinet, in deciding on the 10-point solution, did not make a decision on the use of the word “Allah”.

“When we made the announcement, the government was aware that there was an appeal pending against the Herald,” he said.

The church said the application ought to be set aside as it was illogical and irrational.

The reason is that 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 import of books where the word “Allah” is used, it is illogical for the government to challenge its use in the Herald, a weekly publication for the flock.

The striking out attempt is the latest saga in the long-drawn battle between the church and the government over the right to use the word “Allah”.

The controversy began when Hishammuddin’s predecessor 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 Tan Sri 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.

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.

In the event the church failed to strike out the appeal, the Court of Appeal will proceed to hear the government’s appeal on Sept 10. August 21, 2013.

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