No administrative solution found, so court to rule on use of ‘Allah’

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court will deliver its ruling by year-end on a judicial review application by a Sarawakian to use the word “Allah” for the purpose of religious education.

Judge Nor Bee Arifin made the decision after Lim Heng Seng, the lead counsel for Jill Ireland, informed the court that the home ministry had not responded to any administrative solution.

“The judge will now proceed to deliver her ruling, having heard parties in 2017,” co-counsel Annou Xavier told FMT after parties met Nor Bee in chambers.

Nor Bee is now a Court of Appeal judge.

Lawyer Zirwatul Hanan held a watching brief for the Islamic religious councils of Selangor and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur.

The judicial review was heard between Oct 19 and Nov 15, 2017. Nor Bee had then fixed to deliver her ruling on March 22, 2018.

Xavier said since then the matter was adjourned 12 times for parties to seek an out of court solution to the use of the term Allah for East Malaysians and in publication materials.

Ireland, and the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Church in Sabah, had first written to the Pakatan Harapan government after it took over power in May 2018.

A five-member committee led by then home minister Muhyiddin Yassin was supposed to have been looking into the matter, Xavier said.

He said the others comprised then de facto religious affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa and ministers Liew Vui Keong, Darell Leiking and Baru Bian, representing Sabah and Sarawak.

The PH government collapsed in late February, and Perikatan Nasional (PN) took over the reins of power.

Xavier said the matter was then referred to a deputy minister from PN to have it resolved amicably.

In 2008, Customs officers at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Sepang seized from Ireland eight CDs entitled “Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, “Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” and “Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah”.

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 her but did not address the constitutional points as it was bound by a Federal Court ruling.

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

She now seeks a declaration that her constitutional right to practise her religion was violated by the restriction or ban of the import of educational material.