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LETTER | Confusion over ‘Allah’ controversy

LETTER | Far from not appealing against an earlier High Court decision in favour of Jill Ireland, the attorney-general had earlier appealed to the Court of Appeal but the case was sent back to the High Court to look at the constitutional issues Ireland had raised.

The controversy dragged on until Dr Mahathir Mohamad became prime minister once again when Pakatan Harapan swept into power in the 2018 general election.

According to those familiar with the “Allah” dispute, Mahathir appointed a five-member cabinet committee, which included Muhyiddin Yassin (then-home minister) to deal with it instead.

READ MORE: KINIGUIDE | Jill Ireland, Dr M-era bungles and 'Allah' for non-Muslims

Others on the committee were two ministers from Sabah, one from Sarawak and two from West Malaysia one of whom was Muhyiddin.

Unfortunately, the second Mahathir administration did not last and Muhyiddin became prime minister, through the Sheraton Move.

Muhyiddin, like Mahathir, didn’t last long either and he was replaced by Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Subsequently, Harapan swept back into power in the 2022 general election with Anwar Ibrahim becoming prime minister.

Legal sources said an amicable resolution has finally arrived. Both Ireland’s appeal before the Court of Appeal and the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) church of Sabah judicial review pending in the High Court since 2007 were to be withdrawn.

The SIB case arose over the confiscation of their Sunday school materials imported from Indonesia, containing the word “Allah” in them.

The sources said an end to litigation would set the course for a non-litigious approach to avoid any public order implications.

Essentially, the confusion over the “Allah” issue is partly because there are three “Allah” cases before the court.

The first to be decided was the Catholic Archbishop suit in 2007 against the government for not renewing the annual publishing permit for the weekly newspaper, Herald unless it stopped using the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia edition to refer to God.

That case went all the way up to the Federal Court – where the Herald case was stopped in its tracks when leave to appeal on questions of points of law was denied.

The Ireland case was filed in 2008 after the Herald and SIB suits.

Ireland’s suit against the government arose out of the confiscation of audio compact discs (CDs) belonging to her which had carried the word "Allah" in each of the eight titles, when she landed at the Sepang Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) on May 11, 2008, from Jakarta.

Confusion over Ireland’s case is mainly because there have been not one but two High Court judgments and a Court of Appeal judgment involving appeals and cross-appeals.

Adding to the confusion are three Islamic councils which sought to intervene in the proceedings.

They later withdrew their application to intervene but were allowed to appear as amicus curiae or friends of the court. They are not participants in the proceedings but may be invited to advise on a matter before the court.

But things took a twist for the worse when the Islamic councils and/or their lawyers began making statements to the media and hell broke loose.

What could have been a resolution in accordance with the rule of law and the Federal Constitution went out the window.

NEXT: Understanding the Jill Ireland judgments.

BOB TEOH is a retired journalist. He was previously secretary-general of the Confederation of Asean Journalists (1985-87).

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