Malaysian court orders return of Christian CDs bearing word 'Allah'

(Photo: REUTERS / Samsul Said)Muslim demonstrators chant slogans outside Malaysia's Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, March 5, 2014. Malaysia's Federal Court reserved its ruling on an appeal from a Catholic newspaper to use the word Allah to refer to God, an issue that had fanned religious tensions and raised questions over minority rights in this mainly Muslim country.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has ordered the release of Christian CDs that bear the word "Allah" and which were confiscated by Malaysia's Home Ministry in 2008.

Judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof did not set a time frame for the return of the CDs to their owner, the Malay Insider reported July 21.

Nor did she rule on the constitutional issue of whether Christians had the right to use the word "Allah" in their worship.

The ruling also did not deal with points made by the petitioner which included the exercise of the constitutional right to import publication materials related to the practice of Christianity.

The decison came after Malaysia's Federal Court ‎in June dismissed the application for leave to appeal by the Catholic Church to appeal against a ban on its weekly Herald newspaper from using the word "Allah."

Mainly Muslim Malaysia has recently been embroiled in a court cases and controversies surrounding the use by Christians of the word 'Allah' to denote God.

Some Muslim groups have sought to have exclusive use of the word 'Allah' despite the argument of Christians that the word predates the start of Islam.

In her ruling, the judge said the customs official who confiscated the CDs was wrong because only a minister can order such action.

"It is clear that a senior authorized officer can only withhold a publication, pending the decision of the minister," the justice said.


The court said the customs superintendent, Suzana Muin, went beyond her mandate when she decided to permanently withhold the CDs.

"The home minister was satisfied that the use of the word 'Allah' in the CDs may cause harm to public order as well as cause religious sensitivity among Christians and Muslims in Malaysia," senior federal counsel Munahyza Mustafa had argued.

He said, "In Islam, Allah is based on the concept of Oneness but this is not the same in Christianity which follows the concept of Trinity."

‎The judge ordered the ministry to return all eight CDs to Jill and to pay the petitioner 5,000 Malaysian Ringgit ($1,575) in costs.

Lawyer Philip Koh Tong Ngee who witnessed the proceedings said the ruling protects the rights of minorities as it assures people against what are deemed to be arbitrary interpretations of the law by some government workers.

"This means that their standard operating procedures must be more clear, and they cannot detain things without following the proper provisions," said Ngee.

A member of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism he said. "While we respect that the officers need to do their jobs, the decision means the rule of law must be respected by government officers."

On May 11, 2008, the Home Ministry had confiscated Jill's CDs at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal airport in Sepang. She challenged the action in court.

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