Judges to decide on church's usage of 'Allah' by October

PUTRAJAYA - The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment until October over whether the Catholic Church can continue to use the word "Allah" in its weekly magazine The Herald.

Justice Mohd Apandi Ali, who presided over the appeal with Justices Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim, told the courtroom that they would decide "by October latest, and with written grounds".

The court had earlier heard submissions from lawyers for the Home Ministry and Government, interested Muslim groups and the Catholic Church.

In appealing a 2009 High Court decision that allowed Archbishop Murphy Pakiam's application for The Herald to use "Allah" for God in its Malay section, Senior Federal Counsel Suzanna Atan contended that the Home Minister's decision to prohibit the use of the word could not be questioned as he had acted within his powers and in good faith.

"The word 'Allah' is very sacred to Muslims and is placed on the highest position and its sanctity must be protected.

"Kalimah Allah refers to 'oneness' and cannot be part of the concept of the Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost," said Suzanna, adding that the minister acted pre-emptively in prohibiting the use of the word.

The Printing Presses and Publications Act provides for this, if the minister believes an issue can cause public unrest.

The church's counsel, Porres Royan, replied that it was not enough to say there was such a potential, adding that the court should examine the material to say if that was true.

"Any discretion cannot be free from legal restraint," he said.

"These days, government authorities have such great powers and influence."

He said Christians in Sabah and Sarawak had used the word "Allah" for generations and even The Herald had done so for 14 years without incident.

"If a non-Muslim uses any of these words (restricted words which include Allah) to other non-Muslims, there is no propagation of the faith," he said, adding that the Federal Constitution permitted non-Muslims to propagate their religion to any non-Muslim.

Hundreds of Muslims had gathered at the Palace of Justice here early, armed with banners and packed lunches.

They included Pertubuhan Kebajikan Darul Islah Selangor, Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia, Selangor Religious Council, Persatuan Mukabuku Pulai Pinang, as well as Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali and vice-president Datuk Zulkifli Noordin.