In ‘Allah’ row, court allows SIB’s review bid

SIB is also seeking permission to import Christian religious books with the word.

The three-member Court of Appeal panel led by Justice Rohana Yusof unanimously decided to grant the leave (permission). The other judges were Justices Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim.

“The threshold for the granting of leave is very low, that is prima facie, and we note the appellants have met the threshold and we allow leave.

“The decision of the Kuala Lumpur High Court is set aside,” said Rohana.

With this, the KL High Court will hear the merits of SIB’s application unlike previously, where it was shot down at its first instance. A mention date has been fixed for Oct 16 in Kuala Lumpur.

“The court orders that the case be remitted back to the High Court for it to be heard,” Justice Rohana said.

Previously, SIB failed to obtain leave to initiate a judicial review at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, resulting in this application by the church today.

The High Court on May 5 said it was bound by the Court of Appeal’s decision on the case involving Catholic weekly The Herald where it ruled that ‘Allah’ is for the exclusive use of Muslims.

Justice Rohana said while the KL High Court may be bound by the Court of Appeal decision then, the Federal Court had ruled the comments made are mere obiter dictum (comments made in passing and not binding).

“They are no longer binding on the High Court judge now,” she said.

SIB president Jerry Dusing (left) named the Home Ministry and the government as respondents in the judicial review application, which was filed in 2007 following the seizure of the books in 2007 at the Low-Cost Carrier Termina in Sepang.
However, before the Catholic Church’s review involving The Herald, SIB president Jerry Dusing had already filed the judicial review application following the seizure of the church’s religious books in August 2007.

Books returned in 2008
The books were returned in 2008 before the general election but the judicial review application was not withdrawn as Dusing said it affected the Christian community in Sabah and Sarawak and the seizure was against the agreement of the two states joining together with Malaya in forming Malaysia.

Despite the books being returned, SIB is going ahead with the judicial review application as it does not want problems in the near future as a result of this, and the religious books being used as a pawn before each election.

Lim Heng Seng (right), who is the counsel for SIB, submitted while some states in peninsular Malaysia have enacted laws barrinng non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’, there is no legislation in Sabah and Sarawak to do that.

“Hence, the home minister should not act beyond its powers to seize the books which is for use in Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

The Catholic archbishop’s review application with regard to The Herald was filed in 2009, but this was heard first and decided by the courts.

However, it is still subject for review as the archbishop had filed an application to review the Federal Court’s decision last month.
Apart from the two cases, there is also the Jill Ireland matter, where the clerk’s CDs with the word ‘Allah’ were confiscated.
The three cases would have an impact on the rights of the majority Christian community in Sabah and Sarawak who use the term ‘Allah’ to refer to God in their prayers and their daily life.

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