No ‘Allah’ for Herald

The Court of Appeal overturns a High Court ruling that allowed the word ‘Allah’ to be used by a Christian publication.

K Pragalath, FMT

The Court of Appeal today upheld an appeal from the government to bar Christian publication, The Herald, from referring to God as ‘Allah’.

The panel of judges – Federal Court judge Mohamed Apandi Ali, Appeals Court judges Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim – were unanimous in their decision.

“We allow the appeal by the Home Ministry. All orders by High Court is set aside. There is no infringement of constitutional rights as claimed. We can find no reason why the respondent are so adamant.”

“Allah’s name is not integral to the (Christian) community here,” said Apandi.

Apandi also said that the Home Minister had acted within his jurisdiction to ban the usage of Allah by The Herald.

“We are satisfied that the minister had discharged his function within the powers as provided under the Publishing Presses and Printing Act,” said Apandi.

The ruling today means Catholic weekly The Herald will not be allowed to use ‘Allah’ in its Malay edition

The ruling was read out in the presence of about 60 people in the courtroom, including representative from NGOs such as Perkasa and Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA).

Archbishop Emeritus Soter Fernandez, The Herald editor Lawrence Andrew and priest Clarence Dass from the Christian church were the few Christian community representatives present in court.

Last month, the Court of Appeal withheld their judgment after hearing submissions from the Home Ministry, the Catholic Church, various state Islamic religious councils, Muslim NGOs and several non-Muslim groups on the issue.

The hearing today was result of the Home Ministry’s decision to challenge a High Court ruling made in 2009.

Four years ago the High Court gave the green light to an application by Catholic Church Archbishop Murphy Pakiam to use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to as God in The Herald following a ban made by the Home Ministry.

Then High Court judge, Lau Bee Lan allowed the usage of ‘Allah’ by The Herald, a weekly, in its Bahasa Malaysia section on the grounds that it was their constitutional right.

Controversy over Allah’s name arose after the Home Ministry decided to uphold a fatwa that prohibited the usage of Allah’s name by non-Muslims. In the process it did not issue a permit to The Herald.

Church to appeal

Counsel for the church, Annou Xavier, today, confirmed that they would appeal against the judgment at the Federal Court by filing a leave application soon.

Council of Churches Malaysia general secretary Hermen Shastri who was disappointed with the ruling, quoted Surah al-Ankabut verse 46 when asked for a comment.

“We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.”

“Regardless of the decision we’ll continue to use the Malay bible that contains the word Allah. The (Malay) Bible is not banned,” he added.

Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew said that he cannot understand how Allah can be used in the Malay bible but not in the Herald.

“How can the church be allowed to print the Al-Kitab and yet prohibit the use of Allah in the Herald on the grounds that it is exclusive? It is a retrograde step to religious minorities,” he said.