13 January 2010

The High Court decision on the use of kalimah Allah.

The Catholic Weekly Herald is now free to use the word “Allah” in its publication after the High Court quashed the Home Minister’s prohibition against using the word, declaring the order as illegal, null and void.

The declaration made by Justice Lau Bee Lan:

1) Under Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, applicant Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam had the constitutional right to use “Allah” in the Herald in the exercise of his right that religions other than Islam might be practiced in peace and harmony in the country.

2) In the Constitution, which states Islam as the country’s religion, did not empower the minister to make such a prohibition. Pursuant to Article 10, the applicant also has the right to use the word ‘Allah’ in the Herald in the exercise of his right to freedom of speech and expression.

3) Both the respondents – the minister and the Malaysian government – had failed throughout the trial to prove how the use of the word “Allah” could threaten national security.

On 7 January last year, the Home Ministry had approved the Herald’s publication permit on condition that the usage of the word “Allah” was prohibited and the word “Limited” (Terhad) be endorsed on its front page to mean that it must be circulated only among Christians. The Minister had prohibited the usage on grounds of national security and to avoid misunderstanding and confusion among Muslims.

The Archbishop, as Herald’s publisher, had filed an application on 16 February for a judicial review to seek a declaration that the minister’s decision for the prohibition was illegal and that the word “Allah” was not exclusive to Islam. Representing the Archbishop were counsels Porres P. Royan and S. Selvarajah while senior federal counsel Datuk Kamaludin Md Said stood for the respondents.

Following the ruling, Kamaludin sought a clarification for the declaration to be only confined for the permit in question, which was for the period from 1 January to 31 December last year, and does not relate to an order or a decision relating to future permits. Future permits would require a fresh application.

However, Royan argued that the permit for the period from 1 January to 31 December this year had already been issued, subjected to the same condition pending the court’s determination on the matter.

Royan believes that the order speaks for itself and the Minister will be bound by the words he has used and that he will respect the court’s decision. Royan accepts that they have other remedies but the court has granted the declarations to allow the use of the word “Allah” which must bind the parties.

Kamaludin further clarified that he would seek direction from the Minister on whether they would file a stay of execution application or an appeal.

In an immediate reaction, Herald’s editor Father Andrew Lawrence told the press that this was a long-awaited decision, hailing it as a landmark case for our nation.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said they would appeal the decision.

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