KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 — The Catholic Church failed in its bid to get permission to use the word “Allah” while its suit to overturn the government ban is still being heard in the High Court.
Reverend Father Lawrence Andrew
The High Court here said the Catholic Church must wait until it decides conclusively on whether it is allowed to use “Allah” to refer to the Christian God.
“This means don’t use ‘Allah’ until the court decides,” said church lawyer S. Selvarajah.
Reverend Father Lawrence Andrew who edits the Catholic newspaper, The Herald, visibly drooped when he heard the news.
The editor-priest had seemed in high spirits earlier and was confident the High Court would allow the church to use the word “Allah” for the time being. He had smiled frequently while speaking with reporters earlier.
Judge Lau Bee Lan set July 7 for the next hearing after dismissing the church’s request to stay the government ban, lawyers for both the church and the state told reporters this afternoon.
The arguments were carried out in the judge’s chambers instead of in open court.
If the High Court allowed the church to use “Allah” in a non-Muslim context, it would be helping the church commit an offence under state laws, a lawyer for the government explained to The Malaysian Insider.
According to a lawyer representing several state Islamic religious councils, it is an offence for non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” to refer to any God other than the Muslim God.
Abdul Rahim Sinwan referred to the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of non-Islamic Religious Enactment that was passed into law by 10 states in 1988.
The states are: Selangor, Malacca, Perak, Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, Johor and Perlis.
The Catholic Church is suing the Home minister to overturn the Home minister’s ban.
The lawsuit stems from the government’s assertion that “Allah” should strictly refer to the Muslim God in Malaysia. This is a view that the Catholic Church has been challenging.
The word “Allah”, the church argues, does not belong only to the Muslims.
The Herald is published in four languages, including the national language Bahasa Malaysia (BM), which caters to the indigenous Malaysians from Sabah and Sarawak, who are mostly Christians.
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Reverend Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam filed the suit on February 16 to get a declaration from the courts that the church has the right to use the word in print and in church services.
The Home ministry, which issues the annual printing permit for all publications, had warned the church to stop using the word.
Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, who headed the ministry then, claimed the church’s use of the word “Allah” in any literature published in BM would confuse Muslims, who make up the biggest religious group in the country.
This is the second consecutive year in which Archbishop Murphy Pakiam is suing the Home minister to settle the dispute over the use of the word “Allah”.