Council Of Churches Calls Federal Court Ruling On Allah Issue A ‘Regressive Move’

More Christian bodies have come out to criticise the Federal Court decision today to dismiss the church's leave application to appeal the "Allah" ban in Herald, with the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) saying it was a regressive decision.

CCM general-secretary Dr Hermen Shastri (pic) said the government should realise that it was their own citizens using Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia. "The court decision is a sad day of regress as far as constitutional guarantee for religious freedom is concerned," he told The Malaysian Insider today.

Earlier, the Christian Federation of Malaysia chairman Reverend Dr Eu Hong Seng said the Christian community will continue to use the word Allah in Bibles, church services and gatherings as the Federal Court ruling today was only confined to Catholic weekly Herald.

Meanwhile, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said the decision showed that religious tolerance of Malaysia's multi-religious society is falling. "The Malaysian government should be working on ways to promote freedom of religion rather than exploiting issues like the long-standing Christian use of the word 'Allah' in Malay texts as a SOP (standard operating procedure) to religious and social conservatives that make up part of the government's political base," he said.

Although the court decision has attempted to put a stop to the Catholic Church's fight over the use of the word "Allah" in their weekly publication, CCM's Shastri said this was further from the truth. "This narrative will continue in the hearts and minds of Christians," he added.

 Herald publisher, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, is now mulling its next course of action and is considering filing for a review of the Federal Court's decision, one of the church's lawyers said today.

The publisher had been using the word in the newspaper since 1995 until a former home minister imposed a ban in 2009. On October 14 last year, a three-member bench led by Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali allowed Putrajaya's appeal to ban Herald from using the word 'Allah', saying that there was a 1986 directive by the Home Ministry that prohibited non-Muslim publications from using four words: "Allah", "Kaabah", "Solat" and "Baitullah".

Today, four of the seven-member Federal Court bench dismissed the church's application for leave to appeal, saying that the Court of Appeal was right in its decision to ban the word in the Catholic weekly. Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria, who led the bench, said the President of Court of Appeal Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin and Federal court judge Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar agreed with him that leave should not be granted.


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