KUALA LUMPUR, 27 Feb 2009: The High Court here was told today that the use of the word “Allah” in publications relating to Christianity is no longer prohibited due a new order gazetted by the home minister early this year.
Senior federal counsel Nizam Zakaria, for the Attorney-General’s (AG’s) Chambers, informed the court that the home minister, as the first respondent in the judicial review proceeding initiated by the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, had gazetted the order dated 21 Jan 2009, entitled “Internal Security (Prohibition On Use of Specific Words on Document and Publication) Order 2009”.
The gazette says: “The printing, publishing, sale, issue, circulation and possession of any document and publication relating to Christianity containing the words ‘Allah’, ‘Kaabah’, ‘Baitullah’ and ‘Solat’ are prohibited unless on the front cover of the document and publication are written with the words ‘FOR CHRISTIANITY’.”
The gazetted order was published on 16 Feb 2009 and took effect from that date.
Following this development, counsel Porres P Royan, for the applicant, Archbishop Datuk Murphy Pakiam, informed Justice Lau Bee Lan that they would have a discussion with the AG’s Chambers on the implication of the order.
“If, after discussion we find comfort, then obviously the matter may not have to proceed and be heard. We will inform the court if we find an amicable settlement.
“It is still too early for us to come to a decision one way or another,” he said, requesting for the court to give two to three months’ time for the parties before fixing any hearing date of the judicial review application.
Earlier, Porres told the court that he would proceed with the application to set aside the order of intervention sought on 21 Nov 2008 by seven state Islamic religious councils — Federal Territory, Terengganu, Penang, Selangor, Kedah, Johor and Malacca — and the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MCMA) to intervene and be named as respondents in the judicial review proceedings.
The court fixed 28 May to hear this application together with the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council’s application to intervene as well.
The court also fixed 7 June to hear the application by the seven state Islamic councils and the MCMA, to refer the case to the Federal Court on the constitutional question.
On 5 May 2008, Archbishop Murphy, as publisher of the Catholic weekly Herald, named the home ministry and government of Malaysia as respondents in his move to seek a court declaration that the respondents’ decision dated 12 Feb 2008, prohibiting him from using the word “Allah” in Herald, is illegal.
He is also seeking a declaration that he is entitled to use the word “Allah” and that the word “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam. — Bernama