In Allah We Trust

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Church lawyers studying Putrajaya’s ‘advisory’ on Allah ban

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyers for Catholic weekly Herald are currently studying the notice sent by the Home Ministry, "advising" it not to publish articles on the Allah issue, said Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew (pic).

Andrew told The Malaysian Insider today that the lawyers were in the midst of discussing the terms of the notice.

"We want to get a clearer picture of the matter," he said.

Andrew insisted that the publication has not used the word Allah in its own articles for the last seven years, in respect to the 2007 order by the ministry to stop using the word in its publication.

"This (Herald) is our communication tool with Catholics in the country. And our articles are about what is happening with the church," he pointed out.

The Malaysian Insider reported earlier today that the notice, issued by the ministry's publications and Quranic text division, was sent to Andrew last week.

The notice, dated January 20, said Herald should refrain from using any articles, or even letters, containing the word “Allah” as it would be in contempt of court, and also in the interest of "public safety" and "harmony".

The advisory in effect serves to restrict the use of the word in the entire publication just months after the Court of Appeal affirmed the home minister's right to ban the word from Herald's Bahasa section.

Division head Hashimah Nik Jaafar had stressed, however, that the notice was merely an advisory, which the publication could choose to follow.

"It can be seen as contempt of court as the case has not yet been heard in the Federal Court," she added.

"They have already appealed. So why don't they wait for the decision first?"

The issue erupted in 2007 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Herald’s permit for using the word Allah to refer to God.

This action prompted the Catholic Church, led by Archbishop Emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, to file a judicial review application naming the Home Ministry and the government as respondents, seeking, among others, a declaration that the ministry's decision to prohibit the use of the word Allah in Herald was illegal.

In 2009, the High Court ruled that Herald could use the word Allah in the Bahasa Malaysia section of the publication.

However, Putrajaya appealed the decision and the Appeal Court ruled in its favour on October 14 last year, overturning the High Court decision.

The Appellate Court found that the word Allah was "not essential to or an integral part of Christianity".

The Catholic Church has filed an appeal against the decision with the Federal Court, which is expected to hear the case on March 5.--CNA

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