Sabah church seeks govt ruling on use of ‘Allah’ in religious education

PUTRAJAYA: A Sabah church pursuing the right to use the word “Allah” in religious education has written to the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government asking it to make an administrative ruling on the matter.

Federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan said Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), which has a pending legal challenge, had written to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa.

He said SIB’s lawyer Tan Hooi Ping also informed Court of Appeal deputy registrar Haslina Basaruddin that a copy had been given to Attorney-General Tommy Thomas.

“However, I do not know the contents of the letter,” he said after a case management before Haslina today.

Tan meanwhile said she would write to the court to vacate the Nov 7 date scheduled for the hearing of SIB’s appeal on an interlocutory matter.

“We will be writing to the court for more time pending the ongoing discussion with the government,” she added.

Last year, SIB filed an appeal as part of attempts to reverse a High Court ruling in which justice Nor Bee Ariffin dismissed its discovery application for documents used by the home ministry to support its ban on the church’s right to use the word “Allah”.

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

“The issue can 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 the documents supporting 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, sought a clear resolution of 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 containing the word “Allah” were seized by the Customs Department at the then low-cost carrier terminal in Sepang in August that year.

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.