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'More battles to come,' Muslims warned
Published:  Jun 23, 2014 12:00 AM
Updated: 2:13 PM

Reporting by Hafiz Yatim, Nigel Aw, Ram Anand & Radzi Razak

All eyes will be on the seven-member Federal Court bench today, whether it would permit the hearing of the Archbishop of Roman Catholic Church's appeal over the  use of the word `Allah'.

The panel headed by Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria ( left ) is expected to deliver its judgment at 9am, as hundreds of Islamic groups and Christians are expected to converge early in front of the iconic and huge Palace of Justice complex in Putrajaya.

Besides Justice Arifin, top judges in the country are going to decide the case and they include Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of Malaya Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Richard Malanjum.

Other judges are Federal Court Justices Suriyadi Halim Omar, Zainun Ali and Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha.

LIVE REPORTS:

11am: Benjamin Dawson, counsel for the Archbishop, says they are considering filing a review on the decision.

However, Benjamin says, it can only be filed if they can prove an element of bias in the judgment.

10.50am: An upset looking Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam refuses to comment on the decision.

Despite being pursued by journalists and pressed repeatedly, he merely muttered: "No, no, no".

10.45am: The editor of 'The Herald' Lawrence Andrew says he is "greatly disappointed” by the decision.

"The decision of the four judges touched on unrelated matters but the three dissenting voices spoke with clarity on the rights of the people and the rights of the minority," he says.

Lawrence praises the three dissenting judges as being courageous in upholding the federal constitution.

"They found fault and weaknesses in the way the Court of Appeal decision was carried out.

“The appellate court was to look at the procedure of the high court decision but went beyond that and made sweeping statements affecting Christians," he said.

10.30am: Justice Tan says the High Court and Court of Appeal both said it was plain and obvious that appellant had proven its case.

"I would grant leave for this and support the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak (Richard Malanjum)," he says.

As it stands, Chief Justice Arifin, Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of Malaya Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin and Federal Court Judge Suriyadi Halim Omar have dissented.

Meanwhile, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum, Federal Court judge Zainun Ali and Tan are for Archbishop's application.

10.25am: Justice Tan says the issue should be ventilated and argued.

He says the applicant had constitutional right under Article 3, 10, and 11 and 12 of the constitution to use the word ‘Allah’.

10.20am: Justice Zainun says the matter should be resolved calmly and with reason.

She grants leave and allow orders sought.

Now Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha is reading his judgment.

10.15am: Zulkifli Noordin, who is also a lawyer, says the apex court’s decision “strengthens” the view that the Selangor Islamic Affairs Council's (Mais) acted rightly in seizing copies of the Malay-language Bible, and should not return them.

“Mais can refer to this opinion,” says the former Kulim Bandar Bharu MP.

10.06am: Justice Zainun says the question comes whether the court must be satisfied with the minister's decision.

"She noted fundamental rights have been continuously violated and hence it should be under scrutiny," she says.

10:05am : Justice Zainun says there is argument that there is ambiguity in the Court of Appeal judgment.

She says this follows Court of Appeal Judge Mohd Zawawi Salleh's judgment that “Allah" is not integral in the Christian faith.

She also says the reasoning in the judgment of the Court of Appeal does not match up.

"I am afraid the test applied (is not right), the Court of Appeal should not embark on its own interpretation.'

In judicial review, Justice Zainun says there is element of public scrutiny, thus by denying the review, the Court of Appeal should grant judicial review.

"The Court of Appeal did not do the correct test. It is my humble view, applicants had passed the threshold for asking judicial review," she says.

She says it is clear there need to be further argument so that there would be clarity in law.

10:02am: Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali says he is thankful and overjoyed at today’s outcome at the Federal Court. He says to him, the matter is settled and should not be brought up further.

“We will continue our lives in harmony,” he tells reporters after being informed of the court’s decision.

10am: Former Perkasa vice-presidemt Zulkifli Noordin announces to the crowd that leave has not been granted. This elicits cheers from the crowd, but he warns them that the battle is not over.

"They will not stop. They will bring other cases to court. They will go to court to have the seized Bibles returned to them, and even try to cancel the Selangor enactment," he warns.

"Even though we won this round, there will be other battles."

10am: Justice Richard says the questions should be given serious consideration.

"Leave to appeal should be allowed. Some questions may overlap but this can be handled."

9.45am: Richard Malanjum says there is no issue of public order and security. This needs to be distinguished, says the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak.

"This is an opportunity for the court to decide on the power of the executive (to intervene)."

In matters of national security, he says the minister must offer evidence that security is affected.

9.45am: Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali speaks to supporters after the group shifts to a more shady area to avoid the heat.

He stresses that the NGO does not want be "enemies" with Christians, but questions the need to use the world ‘Allah’ in the Malay Bible. 

       

9.30am: Justice Arifin says the High court should not have allowed the application and hence, the Court of Appeal decision is right.

"My finding that the impugned provision and the court cannot consider the application," he says.

"On the theological view, I view it as an obiter as the minister's decision is not based on this," he says.

"Hence the application is dismissed."

He said that President of Court of Appeal Md Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of Malaya Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin and Federal court judge Suriyadi Halim Omar are with him.

Now Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum is reading his decision.

9.25am: Chief Justice Arifin says the word 'Allah' is listed as one of the banned words.

In the High Court, however, he says the judge found that the ban infringed on the rights of the church in Article 3, 10 and 11 of the federal constitution.

Arifin says the court has power to declare any law as invalid following actions by the government or an individual.

He says Federal Court has the jurisdiction to determine whether a law is invalid or not.

"This power is exclusive to the Federal Court. Therefore, the parties must specifically ask that Section 9 of the state law is invalid,' he said.

"However, the court must ensure that the challenge mounted is not frivolous or vexatious," he said.

Meanwhile outside, the group of about 200 Perkasa supporters are singing and chanting religious verses while sitting down outside, beyond the police tape.

The atmosphere is still relatively calm compared to previous rallies in front of the court over the Allah case.

There are no signs of any new crowd filtering in to join these supporters.

9.20am: Justice Arifin states the Court of Appeal holds the objective test.

"It applied the correct test and it is not open for us to interfere."

9.15am: Justice Arifin says leave should be granted when there are issues of law to be decided.

He now reads whether to adopt a subjective or objective tests in deciding whether to grant leave.

Having considered with the issues at hand he agreed with the Archbishop's counsel to adopt an objective test.

"Test applicable to judicial review is objective test," he says.

9.10am: Outside the Palace of Justice, Perkasa deputy secretary-general Shamsudin Moner addresses the crowd, which has climbed to over 200 people.

Shamsudin indicates the protest today is not only to pressure the Federal Court on the 'Allah' decision but also to support the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) against returning confiscated copies of the Bible which uses the word "Allah" to refer to God.

"This protest is not our finale, at 11am we will also gather at Istana Kayangan, Shah Alam.

"We want the Selangor sultan not to allow the bibles to be returned, we ask that Tuanku take a tough stance," he says.

He goes on to call Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail to resign for refusing to prosecute the Bible Society of Malaysia for producing the holy books.

"How can a Muslim not support Muslims?" He says.

"As for the (Allah court) decision here, we want a decision, we want leave not to be granted, full stop," he said.

9.08am: Cyrus Das, the lawyer representing the church, introduces all parties.

Justice Arifin says there will be four judgments and he reads his first judgment, starting with the background of the case.

9.05am: After reading the names of lawyers in court, the court door is now locked.

Court in now in session with Chief Justice Arifin presiding.

8.30am: Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam, The Herald 's editor Father Lawrence Andrew, Sabah Sidang Injil Borneo Church president Pastor Jerry Dusin are among who have arrived.

Now court staff are allowing lawyers to enter first.

8.26am: The assembled Perkasa crowd in front of the Palace of Justice have swelled to almost 100 people as more busses ferrying supporters arrive.

Some 20 police personnel also arrive on the scene and shift the police line outwards, pushing the crowd to the sidelines.

The situation is calm as supporters linger around as the case inside has yet to start.

7.55am: A group of more than 50 Perkasa supporters, donning black and red T-shirts, start to march to the front of the court entrance after gathering in front of Perbadanan Putrajaya earlier.

No prominent leaders are seen thus far, and the members gather quietly in front of the police yellow tape that bars them from entering the court complex.

7.52am: Court staff have started distributing passes to media personnel, who have gathered as early as 7am.

Rumours say each judge of the seven judge on the panel will have their own judgment.

Background:

The judicial review follows then Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar’s refusal to renew Catholic weekly ' The Herald ' publication license following its usage of the word in its Bahasa Malaysia publication in 2007 and 2008.

The word is widely used by the Christian community in East Malaysia of Sabah and Sarawak, where they form the majority community there, and the church argued that the barring of its use in its Bahasa Malaysia publication is a violation against freedom of religion and expression.

The word `Allah' along with other words were barred from usage by non-Muslims following a Cabinet directive and a fatwa in 1986.

As a result of the challenge mounted, the Kuala Lumpur High Court declared on Dec 31, 2009 that the home minister’s ban on the word was unlawful and unconstitutional.

However, the Court of Appeal unanimously overturned the High Court's decision and declared that the word ‘Allah’ is not an intergral part of the Christian faith.

Hence, this Archbishop's leave to appeal will be decided today. In civil cases at the apex court, it is not an automatic right for the appeal to be heard, as permission had to be obtained first.

The church filed 28 questions of law should the apex court allow the hearing of the appeal. The questions cover three main areas namely constitutional questions, administrative issues and whether the court can decide on comparative religious issues.

The six state Islamic councils of Kedah, Terengganu, Selangor, Federal Territory, Malacca, and Johor along with the Malaysian Chinese Muslims Association (Macma) had objected to leave being granted on the grounds, the Court of Appeal had made a finding of fact.

Certainly religious tensions have been on a high since the Court of Appeal ruling on the matter and this anger increased further with the seizure of over 300 copies of the Malay and Iban-language Bibles from the Bible Society Malaysia earlier this year, by the Selangor Islamic Department.

The Cabinet had lay out the 10 point solution in April 2011, to resolve the row following the High Court decision and the incoming Sarawak state elections then.

However, despite allowing Malay bibles be imported, printed and used in Sabah and Sarawak, this has failed to diffuse the tensions and is seen as powerless following the Court of Appeal judgment.

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