CLS Press Statement: Infringement Of Freedom Of Speech And Religion

Christians are ending the year 2013 with concern on reports of calls by some parties for JAIS to issue letters to the Churches in Selangor prohibiting them from using the word “Allah”.

On 14th October 2013, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal by the Government and the Home Minister to ban the use of the word “Allah” in the Catholic publication Herald after the High Court found that the ban was unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeal’s decision is being challenged by the Titular Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur in the Federal Court and the application for leave is pending.

Following the Court of Appeal’s decision, calls were made to extend the decision beyond the Herald publication. In the past week, there were calls and alleged threats that JAIS will send letters to churches in Selangor to prohibit them from using the word “Allah”. Father Lawrence commented on this issue and Perkasa has lodged a police report against him. An apology and retraction of his statement was demanded from him.

Freedom of speech is guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and it must be respected.

There are no provisions in the Federal Constitution to ban non-Muslims from propagating their religion to their own community or to other Non-Muslim communities or groups. Therefore, any intended letter from JAIS to the churches in Selangor would be invalid. It would also amount to an infringement of the freedom to practice one’s religion as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

It would appear that there is a concerted effort to persecute the minority religion in this country. If true, this is indeed a sad state of affairs and does not augur well for Malaysia who is trying to portray itself as a moderate, progressive Muslim country and a leader of the Muslim Moderates. JAIS should be aware that they do not have a right to dictate to non-Muslims the practise of their religion. The Catholic Lawyers’ Society, Kuala Lumpur hopes all parties observe the guarantees enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

May the New Year bring closer relations between the various communities in Malaysia and greater respect for one another.

HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Viola De Cruz Silva
President
Catholic Lawyers’ Society, Kuala Lumpur

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