Govt criticised for withdrawing appeal to stop non-Muslims from using the word ‘Allah’

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Several Syarie lawyers associations have slammed the government for withdrawing its appeal against a court ruling allowing non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” for teaching purposes.

Yusof Mat Isa

Federal Territories Syariah Bar Council President Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar said they regretted the government’s decision.

The council also claimed that there were reports of certain quarters pressuring the government to make the withdrawal.

“The government should give a full explanation of their decision.

“We also want clarification on whether the three Islamic religious councils, which served as amicus curiae (friends of the court) in the appeal, were consulted before any decision was made,” he said in a statement.

He said this unilateral decision had affected the Sultan of Selangor’s power as the state religious leader, as stipulated under the Federal Constitution.

“In Selangor, there is a state law that prohibits the use of certain words, including ‘Allah,’ which has been approved by the State Assembly.”

Meanwhile, Syaria Lawyers Association (SLW) President Musa Awang also echoed Zainul’s statement for the government to be transparent and give a full explanation of their decision (to withdraw).

“We hope that the government was not influenced by any parties to make the withdrawal.

“The federal government must also consider the state’s laws when making their decision, especially those related to the usage of certain words, including ‘Allah’,” he said.

He urged the government to reconsider its decision and proceed with the appeal at the Apex Court.

The senior federal counsel representing the Home Ministry and the government filed the termination notice on April 18. Senior Federal Counsel Shamsul Bolhassan confirmed this.

On March 21, 2021, Court of Appeal judge Datuk Nor Bee Ariffin, sitting as a High Court judge, made the ruling after a 13-year legal battle between the government and Jill Ireland, a Christian woman from Sarawak.

Nor Bee described the Home Ministry’s directive to prohibit the use of the four words by non-Muslims 35 years ago as “illegal” and “irrational”. She said the government directive was issued beyond the aim of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA).

Nor Bee said Christians in Sabah and Sarawak had used the word Allah in their church for about 400 years.

Ireland, a Melanau clerk from Sarawak, filed the judicial review in August 2008 against the home minister and the government after the seizure of eight compact discs (CDs) containing the word “Allah” by the Home Ministry near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The CDs bore the titles “Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, “Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” and “Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah”.

On July 21, 2014, the High Court ordered that the CDs be returned to Ireland, but it did not make an order on the declaration applied for by the woman that she had the right to keep, use and import published materials containing the word “Allah”.

On June 23, 2015, the Court of Appeal endorsed the High Court’s decision, which ordered the Home Ministry to return the seized CDs to her after dismissing the appeal by the ministry and the Malaysian government against the High Court’s decision. – NST