#Update* Govt continues to argue on theological grounds in Jill Ireland case

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Last Updated: 4:02pm, Jun 30, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR (June 30): The government today continued to indulge in theological arguments when pursuing another court case involving religious matter with regards to the use of the word ‘Allah’. Despite the written judgement in the Herald case last week which has ruled otherwise, Senior Federal Council (SFC) Munahyza Mustafa said today ‘Allah’ cannot be used by other faiths as it had different implications from that intended for the Muslims. She said this in her submissions in the case of Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, a native Sarawakian Christian who is seeking a judicial review over the Home Ministry's action of seizing audio CDs containing the word ‘Allah’. "Allah is oneness. There is a different concept of the word ‘Allah’ in different religions," Munahyza said. Jill has maintained that the CDs, seized by Customs Department on May 11, 2008 at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal on her way back from Indonesia, was for her own personal use. The Melanau Christian is seeking an order to compel the ministry to return the CDs, an order to set aside the order to seize the items and a declaration that the act of seizure was unconstitutional, null and void. The matter was heard before High Court Judge Zaleha Yusof for further submissions this morning. Munahyza, in her written submission went on to say that the sanctity of the word ‘Allah’ must be protected. "The word Allah refers to oneness and cannot be part of the concept of trinity. ...Thus, the word Allah is not just a mere word or translation of the word God as described by the Applicant but it is a special name for the Muslim's God. “The usage of the word Allah as an interpretation of the word God may cause confusion, religious sensitivity and disharmony between the Muslims and the Christians," read her submissions. She however did not provide to court proof how usage of the word could cause disunity. She explained further that the minister ‘pre-empted’ that there would be problems with this issue, for example the text could "spread through the Internet," and that was why the eight CDs were seized. Last Monday, besides maintaining the government's ban on the word of Allah in Herald, Federal Court also decided that the courts should not go into theological arguments. Chief Justice Tun Ariffin Zakaria also ruled that the minister's judgement to ban the word Allah in the Herald was never based on "theological consideration" and that any mention of that in the Court of Appeal judgement was merely an "obiter," which could be left out of the judgment. Counsel: Not about Islam vs Christianity but about constitutional right Jill's lead counsel Lim Heng Seng argued among others, on grounds of administrative law and constitutional law. On the issue of constitutionality, he argued that Jill was merely demanding for a constitutional right as per Article 3 and 11 of the Federal Constitution. Article 3 states that Islam is the religion of Federation but other religions can be practised harmoniously. Article 11 states that everyone is entitled to religious freedom. "It is not about Christianity against Islam or acting disloyally, but as a native bumiputera Christian, she should be granted her constitutional rights," Lim said. On the ground of administrative law, he argued that it was illegal for the minister's subordinate to issue the letter of seizure as Section 9 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) states that only the minister can do it. Lim also highlighted that the CDs, although all similar in nature, were seized under three different sets of reasons which to him, reflected arbitrary seizure. The reasons were: use of prohibited terms, public order and breach of the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia’s (Jakim) guidelines. "Three different reasons… but the CDs were seized on the very same day," he argued, while questioning the relevance of Jakim in the ministry's decision. He quoted the 2012 Court of Appeal decision in the case of the ministry's appeal against its ban on the Sisters in Islam’s book where it was ruled that the minister could not act based on Jakim's orders. "Are we going to be a nation governed by law or religious supremacy?" he asked. He also said the government's ban on the word Allah was only limited to the Herald publication as the government has already specified soon after the Federal Court's decision last Monday. Nizam Bashir, another counsel for Jill argued: "Even the Quran does not prevent the Christians from using the word Allah. It was used by the Christians (Arabs) even during the Prophet's time," he argued. Counsel for The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), Philip Koh, who were among the eight parties watching brief, stressed that even the Sikhs were concerned over the case. "As Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum mentioned in his written judgement (in Herald case), this matter also concerns the Sikhs as the word Allah is in their holy book and it has been used since Sikhism was founded," he said. Judge Zaleha has set July 21 to deliver her decision.

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