Even The Quran Says ‘Allah’ Used By Christians And Jews, High Court Told

A lawyer, representing a Sarawakian Christian challenging the home ministry's seizure of her religious compact discs for containing the word "Allah", has questioned the ministry's justification that the term was exclusive to Islam and Muslims.

Nizam Bashir told the High Court today that an officer from the ministry had clearly acted on an incorrect basis of fact.

Nizam quoted from affidavits of experts submitted in the case, stressing that the Quran contains references to Christians and Jews using the word “Allah” as a reference to God in affirmative and in encouraging terms.

Meanwhile, lead counsel Lim Heng Seng said the case was not about Christianity against Islam, but the constitutional right of Ireland as a native Bumiputera Christian. "Are we a nation governed by rule of law or religious bureaucracy?" Lim submitted before Judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof today in the judicial review application to quash the home ministry's order in withholding the religious CDs.

The Home Ministry seized Ireland's eight CDS while she was on her way back from Indonesia via the Sepang low cost carrier terminal on May 11, 2008. They were seized under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 on the basis that there were prohibited terms, prejudicial to public order and were in breach of the Malaysia Islamic Development Department (Jakim) guidelines.

In August 2008, Ireland filed a judicial review for an order to quash the home minister's ‎order and for her CDs to be returned. Lim submitted today that the home minister cannot be influenced by Jakim, a third party, in exercising his discretion.

"There is a clear separation of powers between federal and state so why is the officer of the minister taking it upon herself to decide on whether the word Allah is not for non-Muslims?" Lim questioned.

Lim also pointed out that there was no proof that Ireland's use of the CDS would cause public disorder. Lim added that in the Federal Court ruling in the Herald case, chief justice Tun Arifin Zakaria had noted that the views expressed by the Court of Appeal judges on theological issues were merely obiter dicta, meaning that is it only an opinion and is non-binding as precedent. As such, Lim submitted today that ‎it was not for this court to consider the theological aspects.

He also pointed out that the federal government had said that the Herald case ruling was limited to the publication and did not go beyond it.

Meanwhile lawyer Philip Koh who held a watching brief for the Malaysian Consultative Council of Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) submitted that the interfaith group was concerned over the case as it infringed on freedom to practise one's faith.

He added that the word Allah was also contained in the holy book of the Sikhs since the time the religion was founded. Koh also said that Federal Court panel judge Tan Sri Richard Malanjum had also raised this issue in his dissenting judgement in the Herald case last week.

Koh added that MCCBCHST, which represented all the main non-Muslim religions in Malaysia, was in solidarity with Ireland, in that the use of religious materials in the practise of one's faith cannot be subject to seizure. ‎

Meanwhile, senior federal counsel Munahyza Mustafa submitted that the minister had exercised his power under the Printing Act which gives him power to withhold the material if it is likely to be prejudicial to public order.

"The home minister was satisfied that the use of the word in the CDs may cause harm to public order as well as cause religious sensitivity among Christians and Muslims in Malaysia.

"In Islam, Allah is based on the concept of Oneness but this is not the same in Christianity which follows the concept of Trinity," she said. The High Court set July 21 for decision.

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