Hornbill Unleashed

October 22, 2013

Attorney General draws flak for saying Allah decision only applies to Herald

Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail says the Herald is accessible to Muslims, which is why it is banned from using the word Allah.V. ANBALAGAN AND LEE SHI-IAN

Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail says the Herald is accessible to Muslims, which is why it is banned from using the word Allah. Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail’s explanation that the recent court decision on the Allah issue only applied to Catholic weekly Herald has drawn criticism from two DAP lawmakers.

Veteran lawyer Karpal Singh told Abdul Gani to go back to law school to interpret the Court of Appeal’s verdict.

“Abdul Gani is holding the wrong end of the stick and is completely off the mark in the statement he issued yesterday. Even a first year law student knows the principle which has been established in this case,” Karpal told The Malaysian Insider.

He said the salient point in the judgment was that non-Muslims in Malaysia could not use the word Allah in their religious practices,  adding that the ruling applied to all non-Muslims.

“Abdul Gani cannot misconstrue the ruling in a narrow manner to hold the view that only the Herald was banned from using the word. Having read the three judgments, it is crystal clear that the judges have decided that non-Muslims have no right to use the word in any form whatsoever after interpreting the Federal Constitution,” Karpal said.

By extension, said Karpal, even the Sikhs, whose scriptures have the word Allah 37 times, are stopped from using the word.

He added that if a Hindu or Buddhist publication uses the word now, the authorities could invoke the appellate court’s decision to stop it.

Karpal said the decision has also rendered “null and void” the cabinet’s so-called 10-point solution in April 2011 allowing the use of the word Allah in the Bahasa Malaysia bible, Al-Kitab.

“The executive must abide by the appellate court’s ruling as the judges made it after interpreting the supreme law of Malaysia, the Federal Constitution.

Yesterday, Abdul Gani said the permission given by the Home Minister for the use of the word Allah in Al-Kitab could not be treated in the same manner as Herald, because Al-Kitab was used in churches and meant for Christians.

“However, the Herald is a newspaper which is also accessible online and can be read by Muslims and non-Muslims. Hence, the reason why both publications cannot be treated in the same manner,” Abdul Gani said.

Karpal (pic, left) said he was puzzled by Abdul Gani’s statement, and questioned why the word Allah can be used in the primary source, Al-Kitab, but not in the secondary source.

“Both are equally accessible to Muslims and non-Muslims if they want to read it,” he said.

Echoing Karpal, DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua urged Abdul Gani to take a clear stand on the ‘Allah’ issue instead of issuing vague statements.

Pua said Abdul Gani of all people should not make non-enforceable distinctions between online and printed publications.

“Is Abdul Gani claiming that the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Al-Kitab, if published online, will be declared illegal? Or, alternatively, if the Herald is published in hard copy and designated only for Christian readers, then it is perfectly legal?” asked Pua.

“The above arguments are inexplicable because if online versions of any non-Muslim publications contain the word Allah, will it then be deemed a threat to national security in Malaysia? Even if these publications originated from Indonesia or the Middle East, as the Internet is borderless?

“I would also like to ask Abdul Gani where is it written in the Federal Constitution that the appellate court is the competent body to determine what is deemed an essential or integral part of religion when it is clearly stated that each religious group has the right to manage its own affairs.”

Pua said either Abdul Gani agrees with the appellate court’s judgement which will impact all non-Islamic publications containing the word ‘Allah’, or he will have to concede that the Court of Appeal has overstepped its boundaries.

“If Abdul Gani disagrees that other printed Bahasa Malaysia publications containing the word Allah is illegal, then he must either support the Catholic Church’s appeal or file for a review of the judgment with the Federal Court,” he added.

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