Jais ‘Allah’ overture unconstitutional, say religious leaders


(MMO) – The Selangor Islamic Department’s (JAIS) plan to compel churches in the state to stop using “Allah” and other Arabic words would contravene constitutional guarantees on religion, faith leaders said today.

Church leaders and the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) argued that no law can override provisions laid out in the Federal Constitution, which does not allow followers of any religion to impose their will on those of a different faith.

Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of Catholic weekly the Herald — which is at the centre of a tussle between the Catholic Church and the federal government over the use of the word “Allah” — said the Federal Constitution is clear in that every religious group in the country has the right to manage its own affairs.

“You cannot just simply impose a law and say you cannot do this. What authority does Jais have over Christians?” he said when contacted by The Malay Mail Online.

“It goes against the constitution. We wait for the directive that comes from the Archbishop. He has to instruct us, not them. Not the police, not Jais, who has no authority to tell us what to do in our worship,” he said.

Yesterday, newly appointed director of Jais Ahmad Zaharin Mohd Saad said they will be sending out letters to all churches in Selangor asking them to comply with the ban on the use of 35 Arabic words listed under the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.

The 1988 enactment prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases in their faith, including “Allah”, “Nabi” (prophet), “Injil” (gospel) and “Insya’Allah” (God willing).

Ahmad Zaharin added that the department will work closely with the police to increase enforcement of the Enactment, and will also push to amend the law to give a clearer definition of jurisdiction, of the officers authorised to act and widening its scope of offences.

MCCBCHST president Jagir Singh argued that there were no legal grounds to enforce Section 9 of the Enactment, especially when the High Court’s judgement in favour of the Catholic Church’s continued use of the word ‘Allah’ is taken into account.

“The High Court ruled that because Section 9 was made under Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution, it only prohibits propagation of non-Muslim faiths to the Muslims and does not bar the use of the words by non-Muslims among themselves,” he said, noting that nine other states in the peninsula have a similar Enactment in place.

“The Court of Appeal never considered the part of the judgement that touches on Section 9, so as far as I am concerned, the High Court ruling stands,” he added, referring to the appellate court’s recent decision to overturn the lower court’s judgement.