CLS Press Statement: Court Decision Suppressing Rights Of Minorities

The Catholic Lawyers Society, Kuala Lumpur expresses its disappointment with the Court of Appeal decision that allowed inter alia the government’s appeal to prohibit the Herald publication from using the word, ‘Allah’ in its Bahasa Malaysia edition.

Based on the summary of the decision read out by Justice Dato’ Apandi Ali, the Court of Appeal found that there is no infringement of the constitutional right claimed by the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.

The Court also found that the name of “Allah” is not an integral part of the Christian faith and that it will cause confusion among the community. The court also found that safety of the people and state is the supreme law and the minority must yield to that of the community.

We are of the view that this decision affects fundamental religious rights of the minorities in Malaysia. It is of public interest especially when the court has found that the usage of the word “Allah” is not an integral part of the Christian faith when almost 1.6 million Christians in Sabah and Sarawak have used the word “Allah” for centuries.

To find that the minority must yield to the majority also sends a frightening message that the minorities’ rights are subject to the whims and fancies of the majority. The minorities rights to freedom of religion are enshrined in the Federal Constitution and must be upheld at all times and not oppressed by the majority.

It does not augur well for a country that allows such oppression. It would seem that the voices of those who profess the path of moderation are being drowned out by the voices of those who are intolerant. The upshot of the decision it would seem is that only in Malaysia is a Christian not allowed to use the word Allah. To hold that the word “Allah” is NOT part of the Christian faith is tantamount to telling us Christians how we should practice our faith, what words we should or should not use.

Malaysians have been living in peace and harmony in this country all the while until the government decided to impose restrictions on the practice of the Christian religion ignoring the right to practise one’s religion in peace and harmony guaranteed under Federal Constitution.

Several Christian and other minority groups have held watching brief at the Court of Appeal namely, Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Semenanjung, Majlis Gereja-Gereja Sabah, Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sabah, Persatuan Gereja-gereja Sarawak, Majlis Gereja-gereja Malaysia, Christian Federation of Malaysia, Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism & Taoism. Their presence in Court expresses the magnitude this decision will have on the Christian and other minorities in this country.

It is hoped that all parties are able to respect each other without infringing the rights guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.

Viola De Cruz Silva
President 2013/2014
Catholic Lawyers Society, Kuala Lumpur
 
Dated 14 October 2013

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