Hornbill Unleashed

October 15, 2013

‘Christians would be confused as well’

K Pragalath

Their concept of God as symbolised by the Trinity is absolutely and completely dissimilar to the concept of Allah in Islam, says Justice Zawawi Salleh.

Even the Christians would be confused over the usage of Allah’s name since there is a different understanding of God in Christianity and Islam, said Court of Appeal judge, Zawawi Salleh in his written judgment today.

The Cout of Appeal today unanimously over-ruled a Kuala Lumpur High Court decision in 2009 which had allowed Catholic newspaper The Herald to use ‘Allah’ to refer to the Christian God.

In his judgment this morning, Zawari said there was potential for ambiguity if Allah was allowed to be used in The Herald.

“If the word Allah is to be employed in the Malay versions of The Herald to refer to God, there will be a risk of misrepresentation of God within Christianity.

“This is because the Christian concept of God as symbolised by the Trinity is absolutely and completely dissimilar to the concept of Allah in Islam.

“The potential for confusion is not confined only to Muslims but also to Christians,” said Zawawi.

Apart from Zawawi, the two other judges who heard the appeal were Federal Court judge Mohamed Apandi Ali and Appeals Court judge Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim.

Zawawi also pointed out that the Indonesian, Malay and Middle Eastern Bibles erred by using the word Allah to refer to God in the Bible.

“This Islamic deity called Allah is never found in the Hebrew text of the Bible. It is antithetical to the Biblical God, Jehovah-Elohim,” he said.

Religious freedom

He added that the non-Arabic speaking Christian community did not translate the Hebrew word, Yahweh as Allah.

“It is translated as Yahweh or rabb,” he said, adding that only the Malay translation in 1912 and 1988 used Allah for Yahweh.

Judge Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim, meanwhile, said Article 3 of the Federal Constitution imposes certain obligations on the power to promote and defend and protect the sanctity of Islam.

Apandi Ali meanwhile said the federal constitution provides for religious freedom but has a chequered history as Article 3(1) was not originally in the draft proposed by the Reid Commission.

He said that the article came about through the Federal of Malaya Constitutional Proposals 1957 with a clause that the position of the Malay rulers as head of religion is unaffected and unimpaired.

“It is our judgment that there is no infringement of any of the constitutional rights,” added Apandi, head of the three-judge panel.

“It is our common finding that the usage of the name ‘Allah’ is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity.”

The Allah row started in 2009 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke The Herald’s permit for using the word Allah to refer to God.

This action prompted the Catholic Church to sue the government for violating its constitutional rights.

On Dec 31, 2009, the High Court allowed the church’s judicial review application and lifted the Home Minister’s ban on the use of the word in the Herald.

The Court of Appeal decision today means Herald is stopped from using Allah in its Bahasa Malaysia editions but the publishers of the weekly are planning to appeal to the Federal Court.

The Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew said today ruling was flawed, noting that the word Allah has been used extensively in Malay-language versions of the Bible for decades without trouble.

“It is also a retrograde step in the development of the law relating to the fundamental liberties of religious minorities in this country,” he told reporters. Andrew insisted the Church remained unbowed and would appeal.

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