KUALA LUMPUR: The Home Minister’s ban on the word Allah in the Bahasa Malaysia section of Catholic publication, Herald, was premised on national security as it raises sensitive religious issues, said Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.
He said the prohibition was done in accordance with provisions in the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and subsidiary legislation.
“’National security’ — that was the issue the government was concerned with. It had nothing to do with freedom of religion. It was only concerned with national security,” Abdul Gani said in a keynote address at a recent legal conference.
The government’s top lawyer said the Sept 14, 2013 Court of Appeal decision was confined to the publication of the Herald and not the Al-Kitab, which were two publications of entirely different characters.
He said the Al-Kitab is the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible and meant for Christians and for use in churches, while the Herald is a publication which is also accessible online and could be read by Muslims as well as non-Muslims.
“The crux of the issue in the whole Kalimah Allah debate is whether it could be used to propagate Christianity to Muslims. It is not an issue of freedom of religion for Christians themselves,” he added. Gani said the court also found that the executive was also the best party to decide on matters relating to national security and public order.
“The minister is not obliged to wait for a threat or violence to occur before making his decision. It suffices if there exists a potential for such threat to national security and public order,” he said.
The A-G said the court had noted that the prohibition did not prevent the Christian community from practising their religion. The freedom of religion as provided for under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution was not breached, he added. Court of Appeal Judge Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali, who chaired the bench, said the restrictions were imposed to prevent the propagation of non-Muslim faiths on Muslims in Malaysia.
In setting aside a 2009 High Court ruling, he said that national security and public order could be threatened if the publisher of the Herald were to be allowed to use the word Allah. — V Anbalagan/The Malaysian Insider
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 20, 2014.