KUALA LUMPUR: The Home Minister violated the constitutional rights of the publisher of the Herald when it banned the weekly newsletter from using the word Allah, the High Court heard.
Lead counsel Porres Royan submitted that then Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar had violated several articles of the Federal Constitution.
Porres submitted that the applicant – Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam – has the constitutional right to use the word Allah in the Herald as provided for by the Federal Constitution.
He argued that the minister had also acted ultra vires (outside the law) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act.
“The Act was not meant to regulate any religious groups in the practice and propagation of their faith including through the use of religious publications,” he submitted before High Court judge Justice Lau Bee Lan yesterday.
Porres submitted that the use of the word Allah was essential for the worship and instructions in the faith for the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking community of the Catholic Church in the country.
Senior Federal Counsel Datuk Kamaluddin Md, however, submitted that the minister had the power to impose such a condition and that he had exercised his power lawfully.
“Any challenge can only be in respect of the decision of the minister not to grant or to revoke or suspend the permit,” he said.
Kamaluddin said there was no evidence that the minister was prejudiced or biased or had acted in bad faith or had acted contrary to the rules of natural justice in attaching the condition.
“In our country, if one refers to Allah or mentions the kalimah (verse) Allah, it will bring to one’s mind that it refers to the God for the Muslims. Kalimah Allah is sacred to the Muslims and its sanctity must be protected.
“Thus, kalimah Allah is not just a mere word or translation of the word of God as described in the Herald, but it is a specific name for the Muslim’s God.
“The usage of kalimah Allah as an interpretation of the word of God may cause confusion, religious sensitivity and disharmony between the Muslims and Christians,” he said when asking the court to reject the application by Rev Murphy to declare that the Herald was entitled to use the word and that its use was not exclusive to Islam.
Kamaluddin further said that the applicant’s contention that the Bahasa Melayu term for God is Allah and Lord is Tuhan was clearly perverse, erroneous and misconceived.
Rev Murphy had named the minister and the Government as respondents in his application.
The archbishop is named as publisher of the Herald.