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Govt wins appeal, Herald banned from using word 'Allah' over public safety

PUTRAJAYA: Catholic weekly The Herald will not be allowed to use the word "Allah" to refer to the Christian God, ruled the Court of Appeal.
The panel, chaired by Justice Mohamed Apandi Ali, overturned a High Court decision and unanimously ruled Monday in favour of the Government's appeal, saying that the minister had not acted in any way that required a judicial review.
The court also found that there had been sufficient material considered by the minister in taking action under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
The court set aside all orders made by the Kuala Lumpur High Court in conjunction with its allowing the Church's judicial review back in 2009, with no order as to costs.
The panel, which also included Justices Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim, each prepared their own judgments, though Justice Mohamed Apandi read a brief summary, saying the full judgment was over 100 pages long.
"Our common finding is that the usage of Allah is not an integral part of the Christian faith. We cannot find why the parties are so adamant on the usage of the word," he said.
The court found that such usage of the word would cause confusion and that in the interest of public safety, chose to grant the Government's appeal.
"The welfare of an individual or group must yield to the interest of society at large," said Justice Mohamed Apandi, adding that this should be read alongside the constitutional freedom of religion.
Senior federal counsel Suzanna Atan represented the Government, while lawyers Porres Royan and Annou Xavier acted as counsel for the Church.
Xavier told reporters that they will only be able to confirm in several days time whether the Church would appeal to the Federal Court.
The Home Ministry and Government were appealing against the Dec 31, 2009 High Court decision in allowing the church's judicial review to lift the Ministry's ban on the use of the word "Allah" in The Herald to refer to the Christian god.

On July 9, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur had  filed an application to the strike out the Government's appeal although it was later unanimously denied by another Court of Appeal panel.

The church, led by Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, had filed the judicial review on Feb 16, 2009, naming the Home Ministry and the Government as respondents.
They sought, among others, a declaration that the decision by the Home Ministry on Jan 7, 2009, prohibiting the use of the word 'Allah' in The Herald was illegal and that the word 'Allah' is not exclusive to the religion of Islam.
The weekly, published in four languages, has been using the word 'Allah' as a translation for 'God' in its Malay-language section, but the Government argued that 'Allah' should be used exclusively only by Muslims.
The three judgments of the case (W-01-1-2010) can be found on the Judiciary website.

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