Hornbill Unleashed

August 23, 2013

All eyes on ‘Allah’ decision as Perkasa threatens to go head-to-head with Christian groups

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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All eyes on 'Allah' decision as Perkasa threatens to go head-to-head with Christian groupsTan Su Mei

Tomorrow, the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya will hear a bid by Catholic newspaper, Herald , to strike out an appeal made by the Home Ministry against a High Court ruling that had allowed the publication to use the word “Allah” to describe God in its Malay-language edition.

The history of the case shows it is not purely a battle of interest between religions alone. Intermingled is the clear odor of partisan politics.

Background of the Controversy

In 2007, the Home Ministry had issued 3 warning letters to the Herald for running an article of the Permatang Pauh by-election, which Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim eventually won. According to an official from the Home Ministry’s printing publications and Al-Quran division, the Herald was encroaching on the area of current affairs and politics. The Home Ministry was also against the Herald focusing on political figures such as Anwar Ibrahim.

Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald argued that it was not uncommon for the Church to comment on current issues and the publication was simply asking the people to pray for “free and fair elections”.

When the Herald went to renew its license on December 30, 2008 it was ordered to cease printing its Bahasa Malaysia (Malay language) edition until the courts resolved a ban on the paper’s use of the word “Allah”. This was part of a series of restrictions placed by the government when it renewed its license.

After writing a letter to the ministry asking them to recall its decision to stop them from printing in Bahasa Malaysia, the Catholic Church sued the government for going against the Federal Constitution. According to the Herald’s lawyers, the government had no right under the constitution to stop printing its Malay edition.

The High Court Ruling December 31, 2009

The government’s reason was that it was  concerned that the word “Allah” would confuse Muslim people who got hold of the publication. The government argues that the correct use of the word for “God” would be “Tuhan” in Malay.

The Herald argues that they have been using the word “Allah” in their publications including Bibles. Other Christians in Muslim nations such as Egypt and even our neighbour Indonesia have no restrictions on the use of the word. The Arabic word for “the God” is used in the Quran which says that Allah is the same god worshiped by Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is one of the strong arguments that lead to the ruling in favour of the Herald.

Justice Lau Been Lan stated that even though Islam is the federal religion of the country, this does not empower the government to prohibit the use of the word Allah and that the word Allah is not exclusive to Muslims.

Post-effects of the Ruling and the Opposition’s consensus

Bee Lan’s controversial ruling sparked several acts of arson and vandalism against churches in Malaysia. She herself received death threats. The law firm representing the Herald was burgled on January 14, 2010 and a lawyer’s laptop and cash was found to be missing.

After flip-flopping on the issue, Prime Minister Najib Razak finally came out with a 10-point solution to Christians in 2011. This assured Christians in Malaysia that they would be free to import and use their Malay-language Bibles that contained the word “Allah”. Shipments of such Bibles that had been impounded were released.

The Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition has agreed that Muslims and non-Muslims can use the word ‘Allah’. Although there was a decision of the PAS Syura Council to ban non-Muslims from using the word “Allah”, the collective leadership of the Pakatan agreed to adopt a liberal and open stand on this and other  religious matters.

What to Expect at the Court of Appeal?

The Herald’s editor Father Lawrence Andrew has explained his rationale for the bid to strike out the Home Ministry’s appeal, pointing to the Prime Minister’s 10-point solution in 2011, which he said should override all disputes.

The strike-out will be heard on Aug 22, 2013, failing which, the hearing of the government’s appeal will be heard on Sept 10 along with seven interveners from the various state Islamic councils and the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association.

Perkasa, a fringe Malay rights lobby group with links to Najib’s Umno party, and several other Muslim groups have warned that they would be demonstrating against the Catholic Church outside the Court of Appeal on Thursday morning.

Syed Hassan Syed Ali, Perkasa’s secretary-general said the rally was in support of the Home Ministry’s efforts to prohibit non-Muslims from referring to God as “Allah” in print materials.

Whatever decision is announced by the Appellate judges, Malaysians can be assured of a ‘colorful’ morning at the very least. Given the hotheadedness of Perkasa’s past rallies, many are praying that the police will act firmly to keep peace and order.

Should the judges decide to uphold Bee Lan’s ruling, the extremist groups can be expected to ‘politicize’ the matter and even organize nationwide rallies to pit the Malay-Muslims against the other races.

Should the judges decide to let the appeal go through, it will put the Christians on edge – especially those who use the Malay-language Bibles.

The Christian community, which forms some 10 percent of Malaysia’s 28 million population, will then have to wait until next month to know if they can continue to use Allah to describe God – something that they say they have been doing for decades.


  1. kenapa la kerajaan tunduk kepada kumpulan seperti PERKASA? lemahnya kerajaan sekarang..bagus suruh perkasa je jadi kerajaan..so nanti dia keluarkan undang2 semua rakyat d malaysia ni masuk islam..tak payah la gaduh isu allah..APAPUN! HE WHO BELIEVES IN JESUS SHALL PREVAIL, NOT HERE BUT IN HEAVEN..AMEN, ALLELUIA..PUJI TUHAN..

    Comment by baak pangak — August 26, 2013 @ 8:58 PM | Reply

  2. Modus Operandi Bolehland:

    Do something wrong > Go to court > Get guilty verdict > Appeal > Acquitted.
    Sound familiar? This is how the Allah case is going to end as well.

    Comment by AT71 — August 24, 2013 @ 12:07 PM | Reply

  3. Looks are a ‘Crusade War’ of modern time?

    Comment by Wijadi — August 23, 2013 @ 3:14 PM | Reply

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