PETALING JAYA: A veteran activist has applauded the government’s decision to withdraw its appeal against a High Court ruling on a Sarawakian woman’s right to use the word “Allah” in her religious education.
Global Human Rights Federation deputy president Peter John Jaban said the decision respects the long-standing practices of the indigenous people in Sarawak, preserves racial and religious harmony, and upholds the secular nature of the court system.
“This issue has been causing discord for some time, tying up an indigenous Sarawakian in court for many years and also forcing the courts to decide ‘ownership’ of a word which has been used in good faith in East Malaysia for 400 years,” he said in a statement.
In a landmark decision handed down on March 10, 2021, the High Court ruled that Jill Ireland could use the word “Allah” in her religious education.
The home ministry appealed, but on April 18 this year, the attorney-general’s chambers (AGC) informed the Court of Appeal that it did not wish to pursue the matter.
Home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail yesterday said he notified the Cabinet of the matter several months ago.
Jaban said the 2021 decision brought joy to the Dayak Christian community in Sarawak and Sabah, where an estimated 2.6 million use the word “Allah” in sermons, hymns, prayers, public gatherings and literature.
“As the former Sarawak chief minister Adenan Satem made clear nearly a decade ago, this has never been an issue in the state. It was made an issue in modern Malaysia,” he said.
He also hoped that the government would not be ”unduly influenced” by various religious councils or pressure groups.
“I hope they (the government) choose instead to respect the religious freedom enshrined in our Federal Constitution and allow the Sarawakian Christians to continue in their peaceful worship,” he said.
“The word Allah should not be a ‘battleground’, but a beacon of solidarity.”