Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Court of Appeal’s findings on Allah issue “unnatural”, says Malaysian Bar

Court of Appeal’s findings on Allah issue “unnatural”, says Malaysian Bar

BY JENNIFER GOMEZ
October 16, 2013

The Malaysian Bar expressed deep concern over the Court of Appeal's ban on the word Allah in the Catholic weekly, Herald, notably in the way the court interpreted the provisions on the status of Islam and other religions in the Federal Constitution.

The Bar also questioned the court's quick research on the Internet in coming to the conclusion that the word was not integral to the Christian faith.

In a strongly-worded statement, Bar president Christopher Leong (pic) highlighted among others the "unnatural" way in which the three-man bench interpreted Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution on the status of Islam and other religions.

He pointed out that the finding of the court was that the words "in peace and harmony" in Article 3(1) is to protect the sanctity of Islam and also to "insulate against any threat".

"The court found that the purpose and intention of the words 'in peace and harmony' was to protect the sanctity of Islam as the religion of the country and to insulate it against any threat.

"This is an unnatural reading," Leong argued.


"The words simply mean 'the  right of other religions to be practiced unmolested and free of threats'."
The Bar also took issue with the court's finding that the word Allah in Herald would cause confusion among Muslims.

Instead, Leong explained that it was unreasonable for a person's fundamental liberty to be denied on the basis that it might cause confusion to others.

He stressed that the decision of the court did not address or resolve this so-called confusion.

"Instead, the effect of the decision would be to encourage a perpetual state of confusion or ignorance as justifiable grounds for denying the rights of others.

"A better way would have been to educate those who might be confused, instead of restricting the rights of others," he opined.

On the finding that use of the word could threaten public order, Leong said that this served the notion that the use, or threat, of violence, would "win its day in court".

"It is unacceptable that citizens are denied their right of religious freedom and expression on the basis that others who disagree or who are confused, would resort to aggression," Leong noted.

Lastly, the Bar also expressed concern that the court had conducted its own Internet research in coming up with the finding that the word Allah was not integral to the Christian faith.

"There appears to be no basis for this finding, other than what has been described in the written judgments as 'a quick research' and research conducted on the Internet," Leong pointed out.

Leong also noted there was no prohibition on the use of the word by people of different faiths in the Arab world and other countries.

"It is difficult to understand how we are able to declare exclusivity of a word over which we do not have proprietary rights."

The Bar, in calling for calm and maturity to prevail, stressed that the Herald publisher's right to appeal to the Federal Court should be allowed to be carried out without threat or intimidation. - October 16, 2013

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