Court of Appeal’s decision on Allah

Dato’ Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar

It has come to the attention of Muslim Lawyers’ Association Of Malaysia (PPMM) that there has been some misconception and/or misunderstanding as to the actual decision delivered by the Court of Appeal on the Allah matter.

The subject matter before the Court of Appeal was pertaining to the legality of the condition imposed by the minister prohibiting the use of the word Allah in the specific publication of Herald – The Catholic Weekly.

This matter came before the Court on the application of Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur by way of judicial review, which is a specie of actions to be brought before court in challenging the legality of ministerial and/ or administrative decisions.

It was the Archbishop who complained in that application to the then High Court that the Minister was wrong in imposing the said condition which amongst others infringed the Archbishop’s purported guaranteed rights under Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, and that the minister’s reliance amongst others on the existence of the anti propagation laws under article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution would also be furthering that infringement.

In the light of that background, the Court of Appeal in determining whether the High Court was correct or otherwise in its decision, was duty bound to examine the complaint of the Archbishop under Article 3(1) and 11(4) of the Federal Constitution.

Hence, a careful reading of all the three judgments of the Court of Appeal will show that the Court had ventilated, studied and considered the application of all the relevant provisions of the Federal Constitution as well as the related provisions of all the necessary statutes in coming up with the decision to answer the complaint of the Archbishop in his application for judicial review of the Minister’s conditions imposed.

It is very clear from the decision of the Court of Appeal, that what it decided was specifically with regards to the legality of the imposition of the condition by the minister in which the unanimous decision is “that the minister has not acted in any manner or way that merit judicial interference on his impugned decision”, which simply means that the Archbishop was prohibited from using the word Allah in the Herald.

Therefore, PPMM would wish to stress that as far as the Court of Appeal’s decision is concerned, PPMM is of the view that the decision goes as far as prohibiting the Archbishop from using the word Allah in the Herald, and nothing beyond that.

It would be a misconception on the part of any sections of the public, locally and/or internationally to deem that the decision of the Court of Appeal has in any way put out a blanket prohibition on any section of the non-Muslim community of Malaysia from using the word Allah.

However, a careful reading of the said judgments will also show that all members of the Malaysian community were allowed to use the word Allah in the sense of the Quranic/ Islamic reference to God, which is as pronounced in Surah Al Ikhlas, (“Purity”) (Chapter 112) as follows: “Say: He is Allah, The One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none Like unto Him.”.

In conclusion, PPMM would humbly call for all sections of the public to read and understand the judgments of the Court of Appeal in the sense in which it was given, and also not to make unnecessary and unwarranted remarks which may lead to confusion and/or bordering contempt. – October 17, 2013.

* Dato’ Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar is the president of the Muslim Lawyers’ Association Of Malaysia.