By John Isaac
THE High Court’s verdict on the ‘Allah’ term issue shows that Malaysia indeed subscribes to freedom of religion, said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing.
“The High Court quashing the ban of the word ‘Allah’ to be used by Christians, shows that freedom of religion is very much alive and well in Malaysia. It has the force of Law in this country,” he told The Borneo Post.
Masing, who is also Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president, said the term was not exclusive to Muslims.
“We must bear in mind that the used of the word Allah precedes Islam. Thus the term ‘Allah’ is not the sole custodian of those who profess Islamic faith.”
The High Court at Kuala Lumpur yesterday ruled that the Malaysian government’s directive issued in 1986 with a total ban on the use of the word “Allah” in Christian publications is unconstitutional and invalid.
Justice Datuk Nor Bee Ariffin also declared orders to affirm Sarawakian Bumiputera Christian Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill’s right to not be discriminated against and practice her faith.
The latest verdict also meant that the government’s long-standing absolute ban in the 1986 circular on the use of the word ‘Allah’ in Christian publications in Malaysia has been declared invalid by the court.
The Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Jill Ireland filed her lawsuit almost 13 years ago after the Home Ministry seized eight educational compact discs (CDs) containing the word ‘Allah’ meant for her personal use at the Sepang LCCT airport upon her return from Indonesia.
Following the May 11, 2008 seizure, Jill Ireland filed for judicial review in August the same year against the home minister and the government of Malaysia.
The case was then bounced between different courts before it was settled.