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May 5 for ‘Allah’ case April 29, 2008

Posted by beritaman in Uncategorized.
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In the beginning was the word, and the word was God. Then came the squabbles over who has the right to use the word and in which languages.

When Justice Lau Bee Lan of the appellate and special powers division of the Kuala Lumpur High Court reopens her courtroom May 5, it will be to decide whether the Catholic Church can take their fight to use the word “Allah” in The Herald, their weekly publication, to the next stage – that is, to get a verdict.

This initial hearing, which started last Friday and continued this morning, has merely been a filtration system of sorts. Basically, whether the church has a case that merited a full hearing in court.

But the senior counsel for the federal government, Azizah Nawawi, jumped the gun in her arguments in court today, so to speak, when she attempted to expunge 2 out of 3 of the church’s applications; that is:

• The decision of the Internal Security Minister dated Feb 12, 2008 which prohibits The Herald from using the word “Allah” is illegal, null and void.

• The word “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam.

In his rebuttal, senior church counsel, Porres Royan, said that it was premature for the senior federal counsel to object to the applications at this point in time as it was

only a leave stage hearing and not yet a merit stage hearing.

On March 19, the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Rev Datuk Murphy Pakiam who is also the publisher of The Herald, filed for a judicial review on the issuance of the printing permit for the year 2008, which all print media in this country must have in order to publish.

The Herald’s new printing permit was renewed by the Internal Security Ministry on Feb 12 this year, more than a month after the previous permit expired on Dec 31, 2007.

The renewed permit also came stipulated with certain guidelines – among them, the non-usage of the word “Allah” to refer to any God other than the Muslim one. There was no explanation given for this condition.

When asked if the church had attempted to clarify with the ministry the reason for the conditions, Annou Xavier, one of the church’s 5-member counsel said that they had not.

The church was afraid that had it sought clarification from the relevant authoritity, it would have taken too long and its licence revoked altogether, said Xavier.

Xavier added that prior to the Feb 12 letter from the Internal Security Ministry, there were 8 show cause letters issued that warned that stern action would be taken against The Herald if it did not cease to use the word “Allah”.

In the event that Justice Lau grants the Catholic Church the necessary leave to do so, it will only mark the beginning of what may prove to be a long and arduous journey.

The church will have to file a substantive application which would, among others, hold that the decision of the Internal Security Ministry which prohibits the use of the word “Allah” in The Herald to be null and void.

“It may take a year,” said Xavier, giving his safest approximation.

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