MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

High Court's bold decision on the use of 'Allah'


MP SPEAKS | On March 15, the Malaysian government decided to file an appeal against the decision of the High Court in allowing the use of the word "Allah" by Christians in their publications in the country. Hence, the ball is now with the Court of Appeal.

Constitutionally speaking, in my considered view, the bold decision by the High Court judge on this issue has marked an important milestone as far as the issue of the constitutional right to freedom of religion in Malaysia is concerned. What adds to its flavour is that this decision to protect the rights of non-Muslims was handed over by a Muslim judge.

In Islamic history, a great saint in Morocco by the name of Sheikh Ahmad Zarruq was willing and ready to be banished to Libya for protecting and championing the religious rights of the Jews.

In honouring and respecting the Christians' constitutional rights to use the word "Allah" in their religious practices, the judge, inter alia, held that: "There is no such thing to restrict religious freedom under Article 11. Religious freedom is absolutely protected even in times of threat to public order."

A bold decision indeed.

Such a daring decision by the court of first instance effectively managed to quash a 35-year-old circular unduly issued by the Home Ministry banning the use of the word "Allah" in Christians' publications.

A threat to public order was cited then by the Home Ministry in justifying such a prohibition.

Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with the decision of the High Court in allowing the Christians to use the word "Allah" in their religious practices as the same is duly encapsulated in the right to freedom of religion enshrined in our apex law, I, however, have some reservations on some of her reasoning.

With the greatest respect, I don't subscribe to her view that religious freedom is absolutely protected under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution. I am afraid that is not the right position of the law on this issue.

I am of the view that Article 11 does not and never promoted the doctrine of "absolute freedom". Be that as it may, it is a pure myth to say that one enjoys absolute freedom of religion, which is duly guaranteed under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

By subscribing to the notion of absolute freedom of religion, it would render the caveats to such a freedom duly spelt out in Sub-Article 5 of Article 11 meaningless and ineffective. Thus, Article 11(5) of the constitution may be perceived as an otiose provision.

Home Ministry 'plainly wrong'

Nevertheless, I need to say this - despite my said disagreement with the aforesaid reasoning given by the High Court, I still maintain the view that the constitutional right of the Christian adherents to use "Allah" in their religious practices is duly protected by our constitution.

Such a fundamental right is not caught by any restraints enshrined in Article 11(5), our highest law of the land.

Be that as it may, in my view, the Home Ministry was plainly wrong in citing public order as the reason or justification in denying the constitutional right of the Christians to use the word "Allah" in their publications.

Such a mind-blogging circular by the Home Ministry, in my opinion, was also tainted by elements of illegality, irrationality and unreasonableness.

Some Muslims in this country are of the view that non-Muslims ought to respect the sanctity of Islam by saying that the word "Allah" is the sole possession of Muslims. There is a sense of an exclusive enjoyment of such a right in that argument. Apparently, this contention, with due respect, is misconceived.

With the greatest respect, this issue has nothing to do with the sanctity of Islam, let alone the issue of any exclusive possession.

On the contrary, viewed from a celebrated Islamic history, I am of the view that this issue has something to do with some unresolved confusions among some Muslims. - Mkini


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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