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Putrajaya files appeal in use of “Allah” case

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has filed its appeal against last week’s High Court ruling that Christians can use the word “Allah” in their religious education and books.

The notice of appeal was filed this morning in the High Court registry here and a copy was extended to the Registrar of the Court of Appeal and lawyers for Sarawakian Jill Ireland, who had won in a judicial review attempt on Wednesday. Putrajaya had 30 days to decide on the matter.

Solicitor-General Abdul Razak Musa confirmed with FMT about the filing.

On Wednesday, High Court Judge Noor Bee Arifin ruled that a Dec 5, 1986, home ministry directive to prohibit the use of the words “Allah”, “Baituallah”, “Solat” and “Kaabah” by non-Muslims was illegal and unconstitutional.

The judge said the directive was wrongly issued as it went beyond the aim of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

“The law is only to check on undesirable publications. It is not a general law to check on public order, public health and morality,” she said, adding that the ministry had acted unreasonably, illegally and irrationally.

Noor Bee, who is now a Court of Appeal judge, said that as such, the directive to prevent non-Muslims from using the four words was set aside.

She said Ireland had the constitutional right to use and import any publications for her religious education and practise her faith without discrimination.

Ireland, a Melanau Christian, filed for judicial review in 2008 but her constitutional challenge was heard in 2017.

This judgment has been adjourned 12 times for parties to seek an out-of-court solution to the use of the term Allah in Sabah and Sarawak and in publication materials.

In 2008, Customs’ officers at KLIA seized from Ireland eight CDs entitled “Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, “Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” and “Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah”.

Initially, she filed the action to reclaim the CDs, seeking several declaratory reliefs as well.

In 2014, the High Court ordered the home ministry to return the CDs but did not address the constitutional points as it was bound by a Federal Court ruling.

The following year, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court ruling but ordered it to hear Ireland’s application for a declaration that her constitutional right to practise her religion was violated by the restriction or ban of the import of educational material.

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