The following report is an extract from Malaysiakini.
Sabah church lawsuit postponed again
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz | Jan 16, 08 4:46pm
The Kuala Lumpur High Court today set Jan 29 to hear a leave application by the Sabah Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Church and its president to review the government’s seizure last August of Christian children’s books on grounds that they contained the word ‘Allah’.
In chambers this morning, Justice Wan Afrah Wan Ibrahim also set the date to hear their leave application to stay the government’s decision to bar the import and withhold delivery of the books until the case had been settled.
SIB and its president Jerry WA Dusing (photo) were represented by lawyer DP Naban while the respondents to the suit- the Internal Security Minister and the government - were represented by senior federal counsel Azizah Nawawi.
This morning, Wan Afrah allowed SIB and Dusing to submit their written submissions today. She gave a week for the government to hand in its submissions.
This is the second adjournment after Wan Afrah postponed an earlier hearing when the court was informed there was a possibility of an out-of-court settlement.
SIB claims to have about 100,000 members and roughly 600 churches throughout the country.
About 10 of its representatives - including Dusing - had flown in from Sabah to be in court today, in addition to several others who are based in Kuala Lumpur.
On Aug 15, customs officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport had seized the books and handed them to Internal Security Ministry officials after noticing the materials which were in Malay contained the word ‘Allah’.
Following SIB’s enquiries and requests for the return of the books, the ministry responded through letters in September and October last year that no publications other than Islamic materials can use the words ‘Allah’, ‘Kaabah’, ‘Baitullah’ and ‘Solat’.
The ministry - citing a Dec 5, 1986 circular to Christian publishers - said that these words were “exclusive to the religion of Islam” and their use by non-Muslims other than to explain Islamic concepts would lead to “confusion” and “uneasiness” among the Muslim community.
For educational purposes
SIB, however, had said that the seized publications were for educational purposes within the church and not for sale or distribution.
The seizure, therefore, amounted to intervening in the religious practices and violation of the constitutional rights of SIB members to the free exercise of their religion, they argued.
They also cited the use of the word Allah as a practice that predates Islam as well as a term presently in use by Christian Arabs throughout the world.
They also noted that Malay translations of the Bible have been in use among Malay-speaking Christians of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak since the 1600s.
In their suit, SIB and Dusing are seeking to quash the decision to restrict the import and to withhold delivery of the publications as well as the ministry’s proscription against the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims.
They are also seeking the court’s declaration, among other reliefs, on the constitutional right and legitimate expectation to the use of the term 'Allah' as a translation for God in Christian publications as well the right to import such publications.
The suit came in the wake of the controversy involving the Catholic church’s weekly publication Herald after the same ministry directed the bulletin to stop using the term “Allah” when referring to God or face a ban.
Last year, about 1,000 copies of bibles in Bahasa Indonesia were seized in Port Klang and had remained in Customs’ possession.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohd Nazri Aziz had earlier told parliament that the government prohibits the distribution of bibles in Bahasa Malaysia.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, however, stated that Bahasa Malaysia bibles are not banned but must be labelled with the words 'Not for Muslims’.