Tuesday, October 26

Herald magazine can use word ‘Allah’: Court

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Catholic weekly magazine Herald can use the word ‘Allah’ in its publications, the High Court here ruled yesterday.

Justice Datuk Lau Bee Lan, in her oral decision, held that the Herald had the constitutional right to use the word in the magazine to propagate the Christian religion but not Islam.

She said 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 the non-Muslims for the purpose of religion, she added.

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.

Article 10 allowed it to use the word in the exercise of its right to freedom of speech and expression, she said.

Lau said the decision by the Home Minister prohibiting Herald publications from using the word ‘Allah’ in the magazine was illegal, null and void.

She said the minister had also failed to adduce evidence that the use of word would threaten national security and create misunderstanding and confusion among Muslims.

On Feb 16, Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam filed for a judicial review on the usage of the word ‘Allah’ in the church’s publications, naming the Home Ministry and the government as respondents.

He claimed that the word ‘Allah’ was not exclusive to the religion of Islam.

On Jan 7, the Home Minister approved the Herald’s publishing permit for the period Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2009, on condition that the word ‘Allah’ was not used in it and the words “Restricted” must be printed on the weekly’s front page whereby it could only be circulated to Christians and at churches only.

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

After the decision, senior federal counsel Datuk Kamaluddin Md Said, for the minister and the  government, asked the court for clarification whether the decision would affect the Herald’s publications for the period Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2010. He said this was because the application was for 2009 and not for 2010 publications.

The church’s counsel Porres Royan informed the court that the minister had given a fresh permit early December for publications in 2010.

“The decision speaks for itself. The minister has given the fresh permit for next year (2010).

I believe the minister  would abide by the decision,” he said.

Kamaluddin told the court that he had to take instructions from the minister whether yesterday’s decision would affect the fresh permit for this year’s publications as it involved a very serious matter.

He also said he needed to get instructions from the respondents on whether to appeal or to apply for a stay of execution of the decision. Lau said the respondents had 30 days to file the application. — Bernama