Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) is seeking further explanation from the Home Ministry over how its use of the term ‘Allah’ for God has caused confusion and affected public order between Muslims and Christians in Sabah and Sarawak.

This came up in the case management before High Court judge Hanipah Farikullah in Kuala Lumpur today. SIB is seeking discovery on the Home Ministry’s barring of the use of the word, its prohibition in printed materials and the seizure of materials with the term Allah in it.

SIB and Jerry Dusing, who is the president of SIB, affirmed an affidavit in December last year seeking the explanation from the ministry.

Dusing stated in the affidavit that a Home Ministry officer said in the reply to SIB that the question of SIB’s constitutional right did not arise as the ministry wanted to preserve public order and avoid confusion between Muslims and Christians.

However, the SIB president said, there was no basis to what the officer had stated and this was against their initial affidavit, in which Dusing claimed the action of the ministry and the government violated the constitutional right of the plaintiff to manage its own religious affairs and the freedom of religion by prohibiting the use of Allah in non-Muslim publications, which has not been revoked, with the term being continuously in use by the plaintiff.

Dusing further stated that there were no untoward incidents affecting public order and security in the use of Allah, and the return of the seized books in 2008 manifestly showed that there were no untoward incidents or that the use of the word Allah had affected public order and security or resulted in religious sensitivity.

He further said there were questions arising from the Home Ministry officer’s affidavit and as a result, he was making the application under the Rules of Court 2012 for the discovery of the ministry’s explanation that using the word Allah had caused confusion and affected public order.

“The ministry should provide material documents where it states the basis to the assertion by providing the various materials relevant to the material facts in this case,” Dusing said.

Following this, the lawyer for SIB and Dusing, Lim Heng Seng, told reporters that they also sought to cross-examine the officer in the ministry’s Publications and Printing unit.

Ministry given two weeks to file reply

“The court today has also given the ministry two weeks to file an affidavit in reply,” Lim said when met after the case management.

Following this, he said, the matter has been fixed for further case management on May 11.

Lim also said the Federal Territory Islamic Council (MAIWP), which has been allowed presence as amicus curae (friend of the court) by the Court of Appeal, has been asked to file an affidavit providing expert opinion on the use of the word Allah.

“We told the court that MAIWP has no right to address the court as amicus curae, unless the court allowed it to do so. So the court has asked MAIWP to file the clarification on this by June 22,” he said.

SIB and Dusing named the Home Ministry and the Malaysian government as defendants in the originating summons filed after the seizure of books bearing the word ‘Allah’ at the low-cost carrier terminal in Sepang in 2007.

The books were returned in 2008, just before the general election, resulting in Dusing to drop the mandamus order to compel the authorities to return the books but he maintained the 18 declaratory prayers sought.

These include the right to use the word Allah in the Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia translations of the Bible, as well as in all religious publications and materials in this country.

Dusing and SIB also sought for the decision of the government and the cabinet on May 19, 1986, that the words “Allah, Kaabah, Baitullah and Solat” are phrases exclusive to Islam and cannot be used by any other religion to be declared null and void and contrary to Articles 3, 8, 11, 12, 74, 76 and 80 of the Federal Constitution.

– M’kini