Johor, FT religious councils want to join govt’s appeal in ‘Allah’ case

(FMT) – The Johor Islamic Religious Council (MAINJ) and the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) have filed bids to be included in the government’s appeal against a lower court ruling on a Sarawakian’s right to use “Allah” in her religious learning.

Lawyer Annou Xavier, representing Sarawakian Jill Ireland, said they had received intervenor applications by both parties.

“We are objecting to the state councils’ applications,” he said.

He said the Court of Appeal had fixed July 12 for case management, pending the filing of Ireland’s affidavit to oppose the applications by MAINJ and MAIWP.

This is MAIWP’s second attempt to be included in this “Allah” case. Previously MAIWP filed an intervenor’s application before the High Court to be co-respondent along with the government in Ireland’s legal challenge.

However, the High Court only allowed the federal religious council to be amicus curiae (friends of court) in assisting the court for deliberation.

MAIWP’s lawyer, Fakhrul Azwan Abu Hasan, said they received instructions to file an intervenor’s application again before the appeals court.

The High Court, in a landmark decision earlier this year, ruled that Ireland can use the word “Allah” in her religious education.

Judge Nor Bee Ariffin said a Dec 5, 1986, home ministry directive to prohibit the use of the words “Allah”, “Baituallah”, “Solat” and “Kaabah” by non-Muslims was illegal and unconstitutional.

She said Ireland had the constitutional right to use and import any publications for her religious education.

The Sarawakian woman filed her judicial review in 2008 but her constitutional challenge was heard in 2017.

This judgment had been adjourned 12 times for parties to seek an out-of-court solution to the use of the word “Allah” for East Malaysians and in publication materials.

In 2008, Customs officers at KLIA seized eight CDs from Ireland titled “Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, “Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” and “Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah”.

Initially, she filed the action to reclaim the CDs, seeking several declaratory reliefs as well.

In 2014, the High Court ordered the home ministry to return the CDs to her but did not address the constitutional points as it was bound by a Federal Court ruling.

The following year, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court ruling but ordered it to hear Ireland’s application for a declaration that her constitutional right to practise her religion was violated by the restriction or ban of the import of educational material.

Nor Bee said it could not be disputed that the ban affected Christians in Sabah and Sarawak as they have been using the word “Allah” in place of God for a long time.

“The usage had not caused a threat to public order and national security,” she said, adding that the Christian community in both states had been using the word for about 400 years.