Thursday, February 13, 2014

Church lawyers study ‘advisory’ on Allah ban

Church lawyers study ‘advisory’ on Allah banLawyers for Catholic weekly Herald are studying the notice sent last week by the Home Ministry, advising it not to publish articles on the Allah issue, Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew said recently.

"We want to get a clearer picture of the matter," Father Andrew said that the lawyers were discussing the terms of the notice.

The notice dated January 20 was issued by the ministry's publications and Quranic text division.

It 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.

Father Andrew insisted that the publication has not used the word Allah in its own articles for the last seven years, respecting the ministry’s 2007 order 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 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 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.

Government appealed the decision and the Appeal Court ruled in its favour last October, overturning the High Court decision. The Appellate Court found that the word Allah was "not essential to or an integral part of Christianity".

The new 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 said 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 Catholic Church’s appeal filed with the Federal Court against the Appeal Court ruling is expected to be heard on March 5.

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