Ruling if Christians can use ‘Allah’ in publications deferred

Lead counsel Lim Heng Seng (holding robe) and lawyer Annou Xavier (on Lim’s left) are appearing for Sarawakian Jill Ireland at the KL High Court.

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here has deferred its ruling on whether Christians can use the word “Allah” in publications for the purpose of religious education among their own community.

Lawyer Annou Xavier, who is a counsel appearing for Sarawakian Jill Ireland, said the court notified last week that the judgment scheduled for tomorrow had been vacated to another date.

“No reason was given why the judgment is rescheduled to another date,” he told FMT.

Justice Nor Bee Ariffin reserved judgment last November after hearing submissions from Ireland’s lead counsel Lim Heng Seng and government lawyer Shamsul Bolhassan.

Ten years ago, customs officials seized from Ireland eight CDs, titled “Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, “Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” and “Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, on her arrival at the then Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang.

The Melanau Christian subsequently filed for a judicial review to reclaim the CDs and seek several declaratory reliefs.

In 2014, the High Court ordered the home ministry to return the CDs to Ireland, but declined to issue the declarations as it was bound by a Federal Court ruling.

The following year, the Court of Appeal upheld the ruling but ordered the High Court to hear Ireland’s application for the relief sought.

She is now seeking a declaration that her constitutional right to practise her religion was violated by the imposition of a restriction or ban on the import of educational materials.

At the last hearing, Shamsul said Putrajaya’s decision to restrict or ban non-Muslim religious educational materials that contained the word “Allah” is permissible under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984.

He said the home minister had been given discretionary power under Section 9 (1) of the PPPA on grounds of public order and national security.

Shamsul further said a 1986 government directive prohibited the use of the terms “Allah, “Kaabah”, “Solat” and “Baitullah” in non-Muslim publications to prevent misunderstanding between Muslims and non-Muslims, especially in the peninsula.

However, Lim said a 10-point solution which came into being just before the Sarawak state election in 2011 had superseded the 1986 government directive.

The 10-point solution was a cabinet policy decision to resolve issues pertaining to the importation, printing, distribution and usage of the Bible in Sabah, Sarawak and the peninsula.

That decision, among others, imposed no restriction on Christians from Sabah and Sarawak to carry with them Bibles that contained the word Allah, provided the holy scriptures include the words “Christian Publication”.

Lim said Ireland’s constitutional right to freedom of religion under Article 11 could not be curtailed through the PPPA.

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