Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim today revealed that Attorney-General Tan Sri Idrus Harun deemed the government’s initial appeal against the high court’s groundbreaking ruling in 2021, which allowed non-Muslims to utilize the term “Allah,” as “weak.”
Speaking in the Dewan Rakyat, he said that when the withdrawal of the appeal was discussed with the attorney-general, Idrus supported it for various reasons, including the belief that the protracted court process would not be advantageous for the government.
“The attorney general’s viewpoint is crucial because the appeal is weak due to regulations previously issued by the Home Ministry,” Anwar explained.
“Additionally, the attorney-general believes that pursuing the appeal would contradict an earlier decision made by the Conference of Rulers, which the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had requested the cabinet to uphold for all matters concerning the rulers,” The Vibes quoted him as saying.
The prime minister provided this response to a supplementary question posed by PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan (Kota Baru-PN) regarding the government’s choice not to proceed with the appeal.
Anwar had earlier clarified that the cabinet had agreed, during its meeting on February 7 this year, to adhere to the Agong’s orders.
Highlighting that the Conference of Rulers had decided that the word “Allah” should not be used by non-Muslims in West Malaysia, with conditional usage allowed in East Malaysia, Anwar noted that the attorney-general had been consulted to examine the case “from an administrative perspective.”
“The attorney general’s decision to forgo the appeal aligns with the stance taken by the Conference of Rulers. The predicament we face now is that there is a directive from the Home Ministry issued in 1986 that contradicts the rulers’ stance,” Anwar stated.
As Pakatan Harapan chairman, Anwar said that the government plans to amend and revoke laws that are incongruent with the Conference of Rulers’ position as part of its efforts to prevent future legal disputes on this matter.
“The priority of the unity government is currently focused on harmonizing relevant laws to reflect the Conference of Rulers’ position. If we were to pursue the appeal, the case would resurface due to the persistent contradictions,” he said.
“By concluding the appeal process, we can establish clear laws that would prevent any further litigation. If the opposition is willing to be objective, they would recognize that this review of laws is not problematic.”
On May 15, it was disclosed that the Attorney-General’s Chambers had informed the Court of Appeal on April 18 that they do not intend to proceed with the appeal.
This decision has attracted criticism from Muslim rights groups and figures within the opposition party PAS.
Previous news reports on the high court’s March 2021 ruling in favor of Sarawakian Jill Ireland have highlighted the judge’s findings that the Home Ministry’s directive in December 1986, which banned the word “Allah” and three other terms from non-Muslim usage, contradicted a cabinet decision.
The high court judge at that time was Datuk Nor Bee Ariffin, who now serves as a Court of Appeal judge. In her 2021 ruling, she concluded that the 1986 directive was unlawful and irrational, further noting that the four words could be used by Christians for educational purposes, as they have been in use for over 400 years.
According to past reports, the cabinet in 1986 left it to the deputy prime minister at the time, the late Tun Ghafar Baba, to determine which words should be prohibited for Christians. Ghafar apparently decided that four words, namely “Allah,” “Kaabah,” “Baitullah,” and “solat,” were permissible with the condition that “For Christians” be printed on the cover of books or materials.
However, the Home Ministry’s December 1986 circular imposed an outright ban on the usage of these four words.
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