Court adjourns Sabah Church case on using ‘Allah’ in religious education

Sidang-Injil-Borneo

KUALA LUMPUR: Sidang Injil Borneo’s (SIB) legal challenge to rightfully use the word “Allah” in religious education has been put on hold pending its appeal over an interlocutory matter.

SIB has gone to the Court of Appeal in its attempt to reverse a High Court ruling on a discovery application made on Oct 16.

Government lawyer Mohammad Sallehuddin Md Ali said the scheduled hearing of the judicial review application by SIB had been vacated to another date to be decided later.

“SIB’s appeal has to be decided first before the substantive hearing could begin in the High Court here,” he told FMT of a consent order obtained before deputy registrar Norazlon Osman today to stay proceeding.

Lawyer Tan Hooi Ping represented SIB.

On Dec 13, SIB filed a stay proceeding in the High Court pending a decision on its appeal in the Court of Appeal.

On Oct 16, Justice Nor Bee Ariffin dismissed SIB’s discovery application for documents which the home ministry used to support its ban on the church’s right to use the word “Allah”.

Nor Bee ruled that there was no necessity to make such an order in a judicial review application.

“The issue could be decided based on affidavits and available documents exhibited in the case,” she said.

The Sabah church asked the court to order the government to disclose documents to support its ban on non-Muslims using the Arabic word, but the government objected by saying such documents were “official secrets”.

SIB’s lead counsel Lim Heng Seng had argued that it was necessary for the government to reveal information relating to its original ban in 1986 on the word “Allah” in non-Muslim publications.

Lim said this ban was the main cause for recurring problems faced by local Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians who had been using the word “Allah” for hundreds of years.

SIB president Rev Jerry Dusing, in his discovery application, wanted a clear resolution in the matter as Christians in Sabah and Sarawak, where SIB was founded, had been using the word in their prayers, sermons, education and songs.

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 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.