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Federal Court denies "The Herald" leave to appeal Allah ban

Federal Court denies "The Herald" leave to appeal Allah ban
Federal Court denies The Herald leave to appeal Allah ban - Astro AWANI
PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has decided to not grant an application for leave by the Catholic Church to appeal against a Court of Appeal's decision in prohibiting the local Malay-language edition of its Herald newspaper from using the word 'Allah' -- ending a long tumultuous legal battle in the country.

The decision was made by Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria who led a seven-member panel before a packed court room today morning.

The decision means that the usage of the word "Allah" to refer to the Christian God will stand, no more appeals by the church.

On March 5, Arifin heard submissions from both parties on the leave application.

The church seeked to obtain leave from the Federal Court to proceed with its appeal against the Court of Appeal's decision, made on Oct 15, 2013, to ban the use of the word 'Allah' in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its publication.

The Court of Appeal had set aside the Dec 31, 2009 decision of a High Court, which had allowed the Herald to use the word 'Allah', after it (High Court) declared that the Home Ministry's decision in prohibiting the publication from using the word 'Allah' was illegal, null and void.

In 2009, the Roman Catholic Church, led by Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, filed a judicial review application, naming the Home Ministry and the government as respondents, seeking, among others, a declaration that the ministry's decision to prohibit the use of the word Allah in the Herald publication was illegal.

On Oct 14, 2013, the Court of appeal ruled that The Herald will not be allowed to use the word "Allah" to refer to the Christian God.

The panel, chaired by Justice Mohamed Apandi Ali  overturned a High Court decision and unanimously ruled in favour of the Government's appeal.

The church filed an application for leave to appeal to the Federal Court on Nov 11, by submitting 26 questions on the Federal Constitution, administrative law as well as the power of the court to allow the Home Minister to ban the use of a theological word.

The weekly, published in four languages, has been using the word 'Allah' to refer to God in the Herald Malay-language section, specially to cater for Catholics in Sabah and Sarawak.

Under the Courts of Judicature Act 1964, an applicant in civil cases must first obtain leave (permission) from the Federal Court in order to bring their appeal to the Federal Court which is the Apex Court.

When the Federal Court is satisfied that the questions of law presented by the applicant have fulfilled the legal requirements, the Federal Court will then grant leave to appeal.

The decision was made by Chief Justice, Tun Arifin Zakaria after four judges out of a seven-judge panel ruled the decision stood.

The Catholic Church had been seeking to reverse a government ban on it referring to God by the Arabic word "Allah" in the local Malay-language edition of its Herald newspaper.

And outside the court ...

The crowd gathered as early as 7am outside the court where some 200 people comprising Malay rights group Perkasa gathered at the Palace of Justice awaiting the Federal Court's decision on the usage of the word 'Allah', today.

"There are irresponsible people in court today who we absolutely do not agree with. Why must these people bring Allah to court? Why must the name of Allah be placed here together with other criminals?" Perkasa Youth chief Irwan Fahmi Ideris told the crowd of men, women and children.

They held up banners and shouted "Allahu Akbar(Allah is great) and held prayers in front of the court steps here. The police cordoned off an area nearest to court and kept a close watch over the protesters.

Irwan stressed that the Federal Constitution gives guarantee for Muslims and said Muslims will "defend Allah until their last drop of blood".

Perkasa supreme council member Shamsuddin Munir said that those gathered were not against Christians or other religions but it was their responsibility as Muslims to prevent other faiths from 'disturbing' or convert Muslims out of their faith.

"We have been patient for so long. We have been silent for so long. We will not give in. We will go all the way to the Agong if we need to," said Shamsuddin.

He also mentioned about the decision made last week by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, not to proceed with prosecution of the confiscated Bibles in Selangor.

"Gani Patail must resign. He failed to advice the government. Islam is the official religion of the country, the AG should help us Muslims but instead he sides with other parties," said Shamsuddin.

The Federal Court, which is the apex court in the country, is to deliver the most awaited verdict on whether or not to grant an application for leave by the Catholic Church to appeal against a Court of Appeal's decision in prohibiting the weekly Herald's Bahasa Malaysia section from using the word 'Allah', today.

The church is seeking to obtain leave from the Federal Court to proceed with its appeal against the Court of Appeal's decision, made on October 15, 2013, to ban the use of the word 'Allah' in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its publication.