The Attorney-General needs a refresher course on law and the Malaysian Federal Constitution
The Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail in a statement yesterday, once again tried to interpret and justify the decision of the Court of Appeal on the "Allah" controversy, by claiming that the decision applies strictly only on The Herald and no other publications including the Al-Kitab.
The Attorney-General cited the written judgement of one of the Court of Appeal judges, Datuk Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim, that "the Al-Kitab is the Malay version of the Bible meant for Christians and used in churches, whereas the Herald is an online newspaper accessible to Muslim and non-Muslim readers."
Therefore according to Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail, the Home Minister's permission for the printing and publication of the Al-Kitab in which the word Allah appears cannot be treated in the same manner with reference to the Herald."
The Attorney-General, of all people should find the above reasoning completely untenable and illogical. Firstly, he is making a non-enforceable distiction between online and printed publications. Is the Attorney-General now claiming that the Al-Kitab, if published online (where it is readily available), the Bahasa version of the Christian bible will hence be illegal? Alternatively, if The Herald is published in hard copies and designated only for Christian readers (which it is), then it is perfectly legal?
The above argument is inexplicable because if online versions of any non-Muslim publication contains the use of the term "Allah", will they be deemed a "national security threat" in Malaysia even if they were published in Indonesia or the Middle East, since online versions are borderless?
The more the Attorney-General tries to rationalise between the judgement delivered by the Court of Appeal and the untenable "1 Malaysia 2 Allah" position taken by Najib's Cabinet, the deeper a hole he digs for himself and the Barisan Nasional administration.
The Attorney General further argued "the Court held that the use of the word "Allah" in the Malay version of the Herald to refer to God is not an essential or integral part of the religion of Christianity and therefore does not attract the constitutional guarantee under Article 11 of the federal constitution".
Article 11 of the Federal Constitution states that "Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion" and "each religious group has the right to manage its own affairs". In addition, Article 3 states that "Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation".
We'd like to ask Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail, where is it written in the above Articles of the Federal Constitution which qualifies the freedom of religion to only the "essential or integral part of the religion of Christianity"? Where else in the Constitution does it say that the Court is the competent body to determine what is deemed "essential or integral part of the religion" when it is explicitly stated that "each religious group has the right to manage its own affairs"?
Even the former Attorney General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman has agreed that "the Court of Appeal has made a finding that the name Allah is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity and, by that extension, the word is exclusive to Islam and Muslims."
What it means is that although the decision of the Court of Appeal is specific to the publication of The Herald, the implication of the judgement is applicable to all other publications, printed or otherwise in the country. Most critically, it will jeopardise the rights of Christians and Sikhs to publish the Al-Kitab and Guru Granth Sahib in Malaysia.
Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail cannot have his cake and eat it too. Either he agrees with the Court of Appeal judgement which makes the term "Allah" exclusive to Islam, which will impact not only the The Herald but all other publications containing such a word, or he will have to concede that the Court has overstepped its boundaries. If the Attorney General disagrees that other printed Bahasa publications containing the term "Allah" are illegal, then he must either support the Church's appeal to the Federal Court, or file for a review of the judgement with the Federal Court.
If the Attorney General persists with his stated position which cannot hold any water, then I would strongly suggest that he returns to law school for a refresher course and reread the Malaysian Federal Constitution.