CLS Press Statement: Respect The Constitutional Rights Of The Minority

Under the Federal Constitution, there is absolutely no basis nor justification for one religious group or the executive to dictate to another religious group the choice of words that the latter should use in the religious books or publications.

Especially when these religious books or publications are intended for internal use, that is to say, for members of the Church and not for Muslims or the public at large.

Each religious group has their own views from a theological standpoint on the use of the word ‘Allah’. However, there is no basis for one religious group to deny another of their Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom and the right to educate its believers in the way that they determine as set out in Articles 11 (1) and (3) of the Federal Constitution.

The ‘Allah’ issue has been heavily politicised. It appears that Malaysia is the only nation in the world where non-Muslims are being restrained from the use of the word ‘Allah’. Legislations abound for those who utter, injure, disturb or trespass against any religious communities as set out in sections 295-298A Penal Code.

The Federal Government on 2nd April 2011 announced a Ten Point Solution that included the importation of Bibles in all languages and the printing thereof in Malaysia without any inhibition or limitation to the choice and references of words used. Hence any restrictions imposed would contradict the stand of the Federal Government as it appears in this announcement.

Although there is a stay of the High Court decision in the Herald case, it is pertinent to note that the High Court Judge in her decision did recognise the constitutional rights of non-Muslims to use the word ‘Allah’.

We call on all parties to respect the constitutional rights of the minority religious communities and allow them to profess, practise and manage its own affairs including the continued use of the word ‘Allah’ and not impose their own views, inhibitions, restrictions or control on these other religious communities.

We also call on all parties to work towards better understanding of each other’s faith which will preserve peace and harmony. In this respect, the inter-religious committee set up by the Federal Government should take heed and act in bringing together all religious groups to achieve greater understanding and respect of each faith.

We reiterate that the rakyat’s constitutional rights of religious freedom should not be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency.

Thank you.

[signed]

Joy Appukuttan
President
Catholic Lawyers’ Society, Kuala Lumpur
10 January 2013

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