Borneo church seeks clarification on use of ‘Allah’

Jerry-DusingKUALA LUMPUR: A Sabah church which remains adamant on using “Allah” in religious publications wants the home ministry to explain how the word could cause public disorder and confusion for Muslims.

Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) said the ministry’s prohibition on the church from using the word by non-Muslims raised a constitutional issue.

In an affidavit affirmed by SIB Sabah branch president Rev Jerry Dusing, the church said it had a legitimate expectation to use the word in their religious education and the Bible.

In 2015, ministry official Barkiya Shahiruddin affirmed an affidavit to prevent the church from using the word “Allah”.

In its application filed on Dec 8, the church now also wants to cross examine Barkiya on the affidavit.

Lawyer Lim Heng Seng said High Court judge Hanipah Farikullah has instructed the ministry to file an affidavit in reply within two weeks from today.

“My client wants to question the officer to determine the veracity of the contents in the affidavit,” he told reporters after a case management before Hanipah.

He said the cross-examination was important in the interest of justice of this particular case.

Meanwhile, Lim said the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council wants to file an application to bring an expert to testify whether the church could use the word.

He said the judge would decide on the matter first, taking into account that the council could only act as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the church’s lawsuit.

However, in allowing the SIB appeal to set aside a lower court’s order on its judicial review on seizure of certain religious books, the Court of Appeal said MAIWP could act as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in SIB’s court proceedings.

SIB and Dusing filed the lawsuit on Dec 10, 2007, after three boxes of Malay-language Christian educational books that contained the word Allah were seized by the customs department at the then Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang in August 2007.

The books were returned to SIB in January 2008.

SIB, however, is seeking a declaration that it has the constitutional right to use the word in publications and for educational purposes.

The home minister had previously refused the importation of four titles of the publications.

Dusing said they want a clear resolution in this matter as the ruling would be a major issue for the SIB to address as they had been using the word in their prayers, sermons, education and songs.