KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — The Catholic Church’s controversial suit against the Home Minister and the federal government for the right to use the word “Allah” has been put on hold following the government’s apparent easing up on its conservative stance.
An order recently signed by Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar allows the Catholic Church to use the word “Allah” for God outside of the religion of Islam in its weekly newspaper, The Herald, as long as it follows certain terms and conditions.
The order was gazetted on Feb 16 under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
Caught by surprise, the Church wants to study the implications of the minister’s order before deciding on its next move.
Chief counsel to the Church, Porres Royan, told the High Court here it would discuss the issue with the Attorney General’s (AG) Chambers first.
“The impugned decision on the ban was made under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984,” he pointed out, adding that Syed Hamid’s latest order was made under the ISA.
“If, after the discussion with the AG’s Chambers, we find comfort, then obviously this matter may not have to be heard,” said Porres.
However, he asked the court to set the date to hear their request to strike out the various parties which have asked to be included in the Church’s suit.
The parties which filed to intervene last year are: the state Islamic councils of Penang, Malacca, Federal Territory, Selangor, Kedah, Johor and Terengganu; the Malaysian-Chinese Islamic Association; and three Sikh Gurdwara bodies in the Klang Valley.
Justice Lau Bee Lan of the Appellate and Special Powers division fixed May 28 for the hearing.
She also fixed July 7 to hear the request by the Islamic bodies to transfer the case to the Federal Court.
“The application by those interveners to transfer the case to the Federal Court is because it is a constitutional issue,” another lawyer for the Church, S. Selvarajah, told The Malaysian Insider.
All eight Muslim groups made the application last year under Section 84 of the Courts of Judicature Act.
They want the apex court to declare the Church’s suit to overturn the minister’s ban as something beyond the power of the courts to decide.
Reverend Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of The Herald who attended today’s hearing, said the Church needed to study the matter in detail before deciding on its next course of action.
But he hinted that the Church would need a more substantial “security” than the minister’s order.
As Porres had noted in court: “An order made by a minister can be repealed or revoked.”