Sarawakian Christian Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill’s lawyer urged Putrajaya today to return his client’s CDs bearing the word “Allah”, after ministers said last week’s court ruling was restricted to the Catholic Church’s newsletter the Herald.
Annou Xavier said “simple logic” dictated that CDs and other publications, which refer to God as “Allah” in non-Muslim creeds, should then be allowed for importation and distribution in Malaysia.
“If you say it’s the Herald, then all other publications and CDs and materials can be used,” Xavier told The Malay Mail Online today, referring to the Catholic Church’s weekly, the Herald.
On May 11, 2008, the Home Ministry confiscated eight Christian CDs from Jill Ireland at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) airport in Sepang, prompting the Melanau Christian to challenge its decisions in court.
The CDs, which Jill Ireland had bought on a trip to Indonesia for personal use, bore names such as “Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, “Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” and “Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah”.
Ministers Tan Sri Joseph Kurup and Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that last week’s Court of Appeal decision — which found that the home minister had acted well within his powers to prohibit the Herald from using the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia section — was limited to the church newspaper.
Last Monday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also reassured Christians in Sabah and Sarawak that they could continue describing God as “Allah” in their religious practices, pointing to the 10-point solution, which his government issued in 2011, that allows Christians to publish, import and distribute Malay-language bibles containing the Arabic word.
The Court of Appeal ruling, however, has cast doubt over how the judiciary will rule on Jill Ireland’s case, and on another similar suit brought by Sabah Sidang Injil Borneo (Borneo Evangelical Church) against the Home Ministry for confiscating its Malay-language Christian education publications, which contain the word “Allah”, in 2007.
Xavier said recently that Jill Ireland’s case differed from that of the Herald, as his client’s case revolved around her right to worship and education, while the latter was about a publication permit.
In August 2008, Jill Ireland filed for a judicial review of the Home Ministry’s actions and a return of the CDs, besides a declaratory relief saying that she has a legitimate expectation to exercise the right to use “Allah”, and to continue to own and import such materials.
In August 2010, Jill Ireland’s lawyers had also filed an application to cross-examine the then Home Minister Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, but the application was dismissed by the High Court on July 12, 2011.
The Bumiputera Christian then appealed to the Court of Appeal in April 3, 2012, but the appellate court dismissed the appeal on getting Syed Hamid to appear for cross-examination on May 10 the same year.
According to Xavier, Jill Ireland’s case will come up in the High Court for mention soon.
Although the High Court granted Jill Ireland leave for judicial review in May 4, 2009, the hearing for the legal challenge has yet to start.
The Court of Appeal ruling on the Herald has earned censure from religious scholars and international publications, while lawyers have said that the court decision has created a precedent for a future ban on non-Muslims from using the word “Allah”.
[Source: MM Online]