No federal law that prohibited the use of ‘Allah’

(The Star) – The government’s withdrawal of its appeal against the High Court decision allowing non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” offers a resolution in the interest of peace, harmony and mutual respect, says Ba’Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian.

Welcoming the decision, he said the Federal Constitution granted everyone the freedom to profess and practise their religion except where it involves the carrying out of “any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality”.

“As a Malaysian living in one of the Borneo states, I wish to affirm our freedom of religion and the use of the word ‘Allah’ for Sabah and Sarawak under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

“Without the Borneo states, there would be no Malaysia. We applaud the government’s decision to discontinue their appeal and hope that all parties will respect the decision taken,” he said in a statement on Monday (May 15).

Baru also said the Federal Constitution guaranteed freedom of religion throughout all states in Malaysia, with no distinction made between the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak.

As such, he said any proposed solutions that the ban on using the word “Allah” would only apply in Peninsular Malaysia were unconstitutional and unworkable.

In addition, he said there was no federal law that prohibited the use of words purported to be banned.

“Several state enactments in Peninsular Malaysia prohibit the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims in the practice of their religion.

“However, it must be noted that there is no power given to the states to do so under the Constitution, which only allows states to control or restrict the propagation of other religions to Muslims.

“If these states insist that the ban on the use of ‘Allah’ is constitutional, they can attempt to enforce their enactments and deal with the consequent challenges.

“It is not for the Federal Government to do so under the Printing Presses and Publications Act, which does not authorise the banning of words,” Baru said.

It was reported earlier Monday that the Attorney General’s Chambers filed a notice to withdraw the appeal in the “Allah” case on April 18.

According to the notice, both parties wished to discontinue the appeal, which was filed on March 21, 2021.

Following this, the entire appeal was discontinued without costs.

In a landmark decision on March 10, 2021, Justice Nor Bee Ariffin, who is now a Court of Appeal judge, ruled that Jill Ireland Bill Lawrence, a Sarawakian Christian of Melanau descent, could use the word “Allah” in her religious learning.

She also ruled that a 1986 Home Ministry directive to prohibit the use of the words “Allah”, “Baitullah”, “Kaabah” and “solat” by non-Muslims was illegal and unconstitutional.