Catholic Church asks 26 questions in Allah appeal at apex court

V Anbalagan, TMI

The Catholic Church has taken the fight to use the word Allah to the next level, seeking answers to 26 questions on the Federal Constitution, administrative law as well as the power of the court to allow the Home Minister to ban the use of a theological word.

These questions were part of the application filed by the lawyers for the church, seeking leave to appear before the Federal Court to challenge the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the Allah issue.

On October 14, a three-member bench led by Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali, which allowed Putrajaya’s appeal to ban the Catholic weekly, Herald, from using the word, said there was a 1986 directive by the Home Ministry that prohibited non-Muslim publications from using four words – Allah, Kaabah, Solat and Baitullah.

The Herald has been in publication since 1994 and ministry officials had admonished the publisher and issued showcause letters for the failure to comply with the directive.

Apandi in his judgment said the reason for the prohibition was to protect the sanctity of Islam and prevent any confusion among Muslims. He also ruled that if the word is allowed to be used by Christians, it could threaten national security and public order.

Further to that, the court said the prohibition was reasonable on grounds that the word Allah was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice.

The decision sparked an outcry among Christians, and other non-Muslims, in the peninsula and East Malaysia.

The constitutional questions framed by the church’s lawyers were to debate on Islam as the religion of the federation, freedom of speech, religion and the right to religious education.

The questions on administrative law centred on the home minister’s power. The questions also pointed out that the minister’s decision to ban the weekly publication from using the word Allah was illegal and irrational.

The church has also raised issues on the power of the court to allow the minister to ban the word based on theology.

Counsel for the church will now serve the court papers to Putrajaya and seven other Muslim organisations who are parties to the application.

The Federal Court registry would then proceed to fix a case management date so that all parties are agreeable to a suitable day to hear the leave application to appeal the ruling.

Lawyers said the church should have no problem in obtaining leave as novel legal questions, raised for the first time and which are of public importance, would have been drafted.