Government Does Not Want To Resolve Allah Dispute

The federal government does not want to resolve the Allah issue in the case of Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, a Melanau Christian, whose religious items, including compact discs bearing the term 'Allah', were seized by the Customs Department on May 11, 2008.

Her lawyer Annou Xavier said this when the matter came up for case management before deputy registrar N Arun today.

"I asked the senior federal counsel whether the federal government wanted to resolve the matter by backing down. However, the federal government does not want to, I was told," Xavier said.

Following this, he said, the Kuala Lumpur High Court fixed July 2 for further case management, pending the decision of the Court of Appeal on the appeal by the federal government against the High Court ruling that the government's ban on the use of the word 'Allah' by the Catholic magazine Herald is illegal.

Representing the federal government and the Home Ministry in the Jill Ireland matter today was senior federal counsel Andi Radzali Jaya A Dadi.

The appeal by the government and the ministry in the Herald case will be heard by the Court of Appeal on May 8.

The appellate court has also fixed May 30 for case management of the main case, the appeal by the government and the Home Ministry against the Dec 31, 2009 decision of Justice Lau Bee Lan that lifted the ban.

The Jill Ireland case was filed before the Herald matter but the Herald case proceeded first after Jill Ireland applied to cross-examine then Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar and the customs officer who confiscated her Christian religious materials.

The High Court granted her permission to initiate her judicial review application but rejected her bid to cross-examine Syed Albar and the customs officer.

Jill Ireland's appeal on the matter before the Court of Appeal got her access to the Home Ministry's guidelines on the issue but it too did not allow her to cross-examination the two.

Her CDs, which included titles such as "Cara menggunakan kunci kerajaan Allah"; "Cara Hidup Dalam kerajaan Allah"; and "Ibadah yang Benar dalam kerajaan Allah"', were brought in from Indonesia five years ago and confiscated by the Home Ministry under the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984.

She sought an order to quash the ministry decision to confiscate the CDs, an order of mandamus to direct the ministry to return the CDs to her and a declaration that she has the legitimate expectation to exercise her right to possess, use and import Christian publications containing the word 'Allah'.

'Our rights are affected'

Meanwhile, a law student from Sarawak, who wanted to be identified only as Lawrence, said the word Allah had been in use by the local Christians in his home state for more than 200 years.

"My grandfather and my great-grandfather have been using the term 'Allah' in our prayers. As we are close to Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), this term has been in practise in our prayers to denote God.

"This government decision also affects some 10,000 Sarawak and Sabah Malaysians who are in the Klang Valley, for our prayer materials are mostly in Bahasa Melayu or Indonesian.

"Some of us, students, come from rural areas and do not have a good command of English and we rely on those prayer materials from home. Hence, that is why the people of Sabah and Sarawak are watching this case intently," he said.

Lawrence described the action to seize Christian religious materials using the term 'Allah' as a violation of human rights and freedom of religion.

Initially, he said, they were happy with the landmark decision in the Herald case but then the federal government appealed.

In a recent interview with Al-Jazeera, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak defended the ban on the use of the term 'Allah' by non-Muslims and he also called on Christians and Muslims not to upset each other.

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