Activist: It should be Sarawak gov’t and Ireland versus the appeal of “Allah” case

Peter John Jaban

KUCHING, March 19: Sarawak government should stand as a party to the appeal on the “Allah” case, backing up Sarawakian Melanau Christian Jill Ireland who filed her judicial review, in 2008, seeking recognition of her constitutional rights to freely practise her religion.

This is the view of Sarawak activist Peter John Jaban when he urged the state government to take one step further from openly expressing support for Ireland, in contesting the appeal to the High Court’s ruling of allowing Christians to use the word “Allah”.

“She (Ireland) has fought alone for long enough. Sarawak is behind her and so should the Sarawak government,” he said.


Stressing that this is far from being a ‘non-issue’ in Sarawak, he said the “Allah” case is in fact a Sarawak Native in court as a Sarawakian native has been fighting this case, sacrificing her time, energy and money for years.

With Sarawak and its multi-ethnic, multi-religious identity, practice of freedom of religion and the history of cooperation between all races, he added, this issue is not irrelevant in Sarawak.

Looking at the bigger picture, Peter said the appeal is not only an issue to Sarawak, but to the entire Malaysia as it goes to the heart of the nation’s identity and the Federal Court’s ruling upholding this is vital for unity and harmony going forward.

“It expresses how millions of Malaysians wish to live with their friends and neighbours. It expresses a desire for openness, acceptance and tolerance over division and supremacy.

“This is not just a Sarawak sentiment. This is a Malaysian one. This is not a matter of religion, but an expression of Malaysia,” he said in a statement today.

With that, he called on the judiciary of Malaysia and the Sarawak government to stand with Sarawakians on the “Allah” issue in the forthcoming appeal against the case.

With the unprecedented showing of bipartisan support for Ireland by Sarawak and Sabah lawmakers as well as backed by a coalition of non-governmental organisation (NGOs), he said both institutions must respect the strength of feeling in the Borneo States and the primacy of the Constitution as this case progresses, ensuring the freedom of religion for generations of Malaysians to come.

In August 2008, Ireland filed her lawsuit against the home minister and government of Malaysia following a confiscation by the Home Ministry of eight compact discs (CDs) containing the word “Allah” which were meant for her personal use at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) upon her return from Indonesia.

After more than three years, Kuala Lumpur High Court with Court of Appeal Justice Datuk Nor Bee Ariffin sitting as the High Court Judge, had on March 10, 2021 ruled that the non-Muslim community may use the word “Allah” in their preaching and publications.

Sarawak leaders and many sectors of the community in the state have rejoiced and welcomed this ruling, including the use of three other Arabic words of “Baitullah”, “Kaabah” and “solat” in non-Muslim publications for educational purposes.

But the next day, Muafakat Nasional (MN) Consultative Committee comprising of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS) had urged the Federal government to appeal the decision of the High Court.

Following that, Putrajaya on March 12, filed an appeal against the High Court’s ruling which then drew backlash from various quarters including leaders in Sarawak and Sabah.

A group of Sarawakian and Sabahan lawmakers, from both political divides, then issued a bipartisan petition demanding that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the Federal government and the people of Malaysia withdraw the appeal.

Just yesterday (March 18), the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) also made it clear as to the Sarawak government’s firm stand in the policy of religious tolerance and there has never been restrictions for Christians in Sarawak to use the word “Allah”. — DayakDaily