Verdict on Christians’ right to use ‘Allah’ postponed for 5th time

PETALING JAYA: The Kuala Lumpur High Court has deferred its ruling for the fifth time on whether Christians can use the word “Allah” in publications for the purpose of religious education within their own community.

Lawyer Annou Xavier, appearing for Sarawakian Jill Ireland, said the verdict scheduled for tomorrow had been adjourned to allow “litigants to have a more concrete solution with the government”.

He declined to elaborate on the matter.

“Tomorrow’s date for a decision has been converted to a case management,” he told FMT.

Judge Nor Bee Ariffin first reserved judgment a year ago, after hearing submissions from Ireland’s lead counsel Lim Hen Seng and government lawyer Shamsul Bolhassan.

The High Court initially fixed March 22 for the decision, but then deferred it to Aug 13, Oct 29 and Nov 14.

FMT understands that parties are attempting to get an assurance from the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government that certain constitutional rights of Christians in Sabah and Sarawak will be upheld.

Ten years ago, customs officials seized eight CDs from Ireland titled “Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, “Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” and “Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” upon her arrival at the then-low cost carrier terminal in Sepang.

Ireland, a Melanau Christian, filed for a judicial review to reclaim the CDs, seeking several declaratory reliefs as well.

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 reliefs 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.

A Sabah church is also pursuing the right to use the word “Allah” in religious education, and has written to the PH government asking it to make an administrative ruling on the matter.

Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), which has a pending legal challenge, wrote to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa on the issue.

The Court of Appeal has also vacated a scheduled hearing of SIB’s appeal on an interlocutory matter.

SIB filed the appeal last year as part of attempts to reverse a High Court ruling in which Nor Bee 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.