Stay granted on ‘Allah’ ruling

The High Court granted the Home Ministry a stay of execution on the recent ruling allowing the Herald weekly magazine to use the word “Allah” in its Malay-language edition, pending the hearing of an appeal.

The lawyers representing the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, as publisher of the Catholic weekly, agreed to the stay by the Home Ministry and Justice Lau Bee Lan granted the stay in chambers, said Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.

“I requested for the stay of execution to be heard quickly. The faster the matter is settled, the better it will be for everyone in the country,” he said, adding that it was done based on “national interest.”

“I am grateful that my learned friend agreed to the stay and we will try to have the matter heard as soon as possible in the Court of Appeal,” he said after coming out of the chambers in High Court.

Abdul Gani said that people should not assume that there was “something wrong” just because the matter was heard so quickly.

“No, there was nothing wrong. I can refer you to a case in Australia where a stay of execution was heard within a few days,” he said. The Home Ministry had filed its application for a stay only the day before.

The lawyer representing the Herald, Derek Fernandez, said they agreed with the stay because the request made by the Attorney-General was based on national interest.

“We agreed to the stay pending the appeal at the Court of Appeal,” he said.

Derek also said they were concerned with the breach of the subjudice rule by many parties which showed disrespect to the court and Abdul Gani had assured that he would uphold the law.

“We made it clear that the Attorney-General must enforce the subjudice rule,” he said.

On Feb 16, Archbishop Murphy filed for a judicial review on the use of the word “Allah” in the church’s publications for the period Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2009, naming the Home Ministry and the Government as respondents and claiming that the word “Allah” was not exclusive to the religion of Islam.

The Herald, which is printed in four languages, has been using the word “Allah” as a translation for “God” in its Malay-language section.

On Dec 31, Judge Lau had ruled that pursuant to Articles 11 and 12 of the Federal Constitution, the Herald had the constitutional right to use the word in respect of instruction and education of the congregation in the Christian religion.

She also said that pursuant to Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution, it was an offence for non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” to Muslims to propagate the religion but it was not an offence for non-Muslims to use the word to non-Muslims for the purpose of religion.

The word “Allah” is widely used among the indigenous Christian groups in Sabah and Sarawak, most of whom speak Bahasa Malaysia.

The Home Minister had justified the ban on the grounds of national security and to avert misunderstanding and confusion among Muslims.

On Monday, the ministry lodged an appeal with the Court of Appeal against the Dec 31 ruling and on Tuesday filed for a stay of execution pending the appeal.

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