Jan 6, 2010

Court allows stay of order on use of "Allah"

The High Court granted the Home Ministry a stay of execution on the recent ruling allowing the Herald weekly magazine to use the word “Allah” in its Malay-language edition, pending the hearing of an appeal.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 (Bernama) -- The High Court today allowed a stay of an earlier order to allow the use of "Allah" by Catholic weekly, Herald, following consent by the Home Ministry and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Malaysia on the grounds of national interest.

Justice Datuk Lau Bee Lan, who had issued the earlier order on Dec 31 last year, made the ruling in chambers after meeting Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and counsel Derek J. Fernandez for Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam for 30 minutes.

Fernandez told reporters that Lau agreed to record the stay by consent.

Abdul Gani was grateful that there was agreement for a stay.

"As far as I am concerned, it involves national interest, there is no necessity to get involved in an argument for a stay," he said.

"I am very grateful to my learned friend who has agreed for a stay and we will try to have this matter be heard as soon as possible in the Court of Appeal. I believe it can be very, very soon," said the attorney-general.

Yesterday, the ministry filed an application for a stay of the earlier court ruling after lodging an appeal with the Court of Appeal, a day earlier.

Abdul Gani said the speediness of the process should not be misconstrued because the issue should be resolved as soon as possible.

"I should say this again, there should be no kind of perception on this matter since it is better this matter is being heard so fast. It doesn't mean that something is wrong, let's not have such perception.

"The important thing is that the matter should be settled as soon as possible. All of us should respect the court decision," he said.

Asked if there was pressure on this case, he replied, "You can't say there is pressure in this case since there is a pressure in all cases. I don't want to give any kind of perception now, let the matter settle."

Fernandez said his side had agreed to the attorney-general's request for a stay due to national interest, pending the next course at the Court of Appeal.

"We are concerned of the breach of subjudice rule by many parties who are showing disrespect to the court. Tan Sri assured us he would look into those matters," he said.

On Dec 31, Lau ruled that pursuant to Articles 11 and 12 of the Federal Constitution, the Herald had the constitutional right to use the word, in respect of instruction and education of the congregation in the Christian religion.

She also said that pursuant to Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution, it was an offence for non-Muslims to use the word "Allah" to Muslims to propagate the religion but it was not an offence for non-Muslims to use the word to non-Muslims for the purpose of religion.

On Feb 16, the archbishop filed for a judicial review on the use of the word "Allah" in the church's publications for the period Jan 1 to Dec 31, last year, naming the ministry and the government as respondents and claiming that the word "Allah" was not exclusive to the religion of Islam.

The Herald, which is printed in four languages, has been using the word "Allah" as a translation for 'God' in its Malay-language section.

The word "Allah" is widely used among the indigenous Christian groups in Sabah and Sarawak, most of whom speak Bahasa Malaysia.

The minister had justified the ban on the grounds of national security and to avert misunderstanding and confusion among Muslims.



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