Allah Lawsuits: Justice Delayed is Injustice Enforced

I have earlier highlighted why the government policy of banning non-Muslims from using the word ‘Allah’ is indefensible on linguistics and historical grounds. It above all socially repressive. You may visit the following links to read my arguments.

– “No one Religion can Monopolize or Copyright the Term ‘Allah’ “LINK

– “The Semantics of the Word ALLAH” LINK

My concern in the present post is not to revisit the intellectual discussion but to point out why the government wants to avoid having the Court settle the lawsuits brought by the Catholic Church and the SIB (Sidang Injil Borneo) to confirm their right to use the word ‘Allah’ in their religious literature and in their liturgy

It is pretty evident that the government lawyers have resorted to various delay tactics in Court. The government has asked for various postponements of the cases on grounds it needs more time to prepare the cases. It has conspired with various Islamic bodies who have applied to become interested parties. Precisely because their applications are legally questionable, the Court is obliged first to settle their applications in a trial within a trial before the original case dealing with the right of non-Muslims to use the world ‘Allah’  can proceed further. Regardless, this results in much further delay and this suits the government just fine.

More seriously, the government has exploited the delay in the Court cases to enforce its repressive policy. This is evident in the latest report in Malaysiakini. LINK

“A Catholic newspaper has been ordered by the government to cease its Malay language edition until courts resolve a ban on the paper’s use of the word “Allah”, its editor said today. Herald newspaper editor Father Lawrence Andrew said the move was part of a series of restrictions put in place by the government when it renewed the paper’s licence on Tuesday.”

A later update from Malaysiakini LINK reports: “Murphy Pakiam (right), the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur and publisher of the weekly newspaper, said in a letter to the Home Ministry that it had seven days to revoke its decision or face legal action.

He said he was “totally perplexed” over the suspension which “reeks of ill will and bad faith” and was effectively a punishment for the legal battle that is due to be settled next month.”

How true indeed!

The Court is theoretically supposed to come up with a decision next month. It would be surprising if the government does not ask for a further postponement. The Court will probably rule on some minor technicalities rather than deal directly with the core Constitutional issue of fundamental liberty and religious rights, But regardless of the decision, there will be an appeal to the higher Court and the long process of Court hearing starts all over again with further expected delay tactics from the government. It may take years before we arrive at the highest Court (the process costs the government nothing since the repressive bureaucracy is supported by our taxes but it will impose huge financial burden to the churches who brought the cases to the Court).

Meanwhile, pending the long-delayed settlement through the Court, the government continues enforcing its repressively policy against Christians with impunity. In effect the government is callously denying bumiputera Christians their right to use their primary language in practising their faith. As one Catholic leader emphasizes, “the ban did not make any sense because a large proportion of Catholics in Malaysia are bumiputera who mainly speak Malay…More than 50 percent of our congregation are bumiputera and two of our bishops are bumiputera.”

It has beed said that “Justice delayed is justice denied.” But the way the government has exploited the delays in the Court process to bring punitive measures against the Malaysian Christians is even more injurious – “Justice delayed is Injustice Enforced.”

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