No blanket ban on ‘Allah’, says lawyer
There is no blanket ban as per the judgment of the Court of Appeal but it must be applied in context when used, says a counsel for the Selangor Islamic Religious CouncilPETALING JAYA: Lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla said that the Appeals Court’s judgment does not infringe on the rights of other publications to use the term ‘Allah’. However the usage of ‘Allah’ as done by Catholic weekly, The Herald must be avoided.
“The judgment does not relate to other publications and people. There is no blanket ban on the ‘Allah’ word,” he said when asked whether other publications can use the term Allah.
Haniff who was also a counsel for the Selangor Islamic Religious Council elaborated on the judgment of the Appeals Court that disallowed the Herald from using ‘Allah’ in their Bahasa Malaysia version.
The court ruled that the Home Minister acted within his jurisdiction in prohibiting the Herald from using the word ‘Allah’. The appeal judges said the ruling was done to avoid confusion among Muslims and Christians, and ‘Allah’ was not integral to the faith of the Christians.
“Until a case is brought up to the court there is no blanket prohibition on the use of Allah,” said Haniff today.
He added that there were state enactments which can be used to curb the usage of Allah in the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non Islamic Religions 1981 enactment; prohibiting non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’.
The enactment, among others, does not allow non-Muslims from using terms such as ‘Allah’, ‘Baitullah’ and ‘Kaabah’ and about 30 other words.
“In Islam, Allah is for all, so to utter Allah in the context of Islam is fine. In Christianity there is a concept of Trinity, which is against the concept of Oneness of Allah in Islam. This is against the theology of Islam,” he said.
He also called upon the public to look at the problem from a linguistic and translation perspective.
“It is not a battle of the scriptures. Jesus son of Allah is blasphemy for Muslims. In Sabah and Sarawak, they know that Allah is the pronoun for Muslims. It may confuse the Christians there too,” he said.
“Allah is a specific name where-else God is a general term,” he added.
He also said that the Bible was originally written in the Aramaic language, not English.
“Is it not disrespectful of the faith when you don’t translate properly? In Aramaic the word was Elohim and Yahweh. Why not use the word Lord and God instead of Allah?” asked Haniff.
He also pointed that the ruling to avoid confusion was not about confusion on matters of the faith.
“Confusion refers to using hatred of one group of people against another. It can create disharmony,” he said, adding that there was a cause for concern over possible confusion arising among the young.
Haniff also said that the authorities can take action against the publications or persons that misuse of the word ‘Allah’ via the Internet; when made accessible here as it would be touching the courts judgment made inland.
“The authorities can act against those who download publications from the Internet and distribute them to the public,” he said, when asked on the possibility of a publication based in a foreign country and owned by a foreigner using the term ‘Allah’.
There has been much debate and to an extent confusion among the public on the use of the word ‘Allah’ as the court’s decision seem to have been interpreted from various angles.