Malaysia: SIB Church Seeks Order Against Minister

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: The Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Church of Sabah applied for permission from the High Court here Wednesday (16 Jan) to proceed with its suit against the Internal Security Minister and the government over the recent detention of their books containing the word ‘Allah’.

It is also asking the court for an order for the return of these books as well as to prevent the minister who is also the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, from taking further unilateral action on this matter pending the outcome of its suit.

SIB is represented by Datuk D.P Naban, Lim Heng Seng, Bobby Chew, Kenny Ng, T. Kavitha and Abun Sui Anyit while Federal Counsels Azizah Nawawi, Suzana Atyan and Arik Sanusi appear for the respondents. Justice Datuk Wan Afrah bte Datuk Paduka Wan Ibrahim fixed hearing for 29 Jan 2008. The case came up for hearing on 27 Dec 2007 but was adjourned for “outside parties” to try to resolve it but the effort was in vain.

The SIB said the books were Sunday School books meant for their children’s Christian education and were brought in from Indonesia last August. Some of the titles were prohibited from coming in while others were withheld at the Sepang Low Cost Carrier Terminal on transit to Kota Kinabalu as they contained the word ‘Allah.’

In its submission filed in chambers, SIB said in its application for leave for a judicial review of the minister’s decision was that there was no factual basis that the word ‘Allah’ is exclusive to the religion of Islam which formed the basis for the policy that the word cannot be used in published materials of other religions.

It also questioned the legality of the decision as it had failed to take into account that the word ‘Allah’ predates Islam and that the word has been in used continuously in the printed edition of Matthew’s Gospel since 1629 both in Bahasa Malaysia and Indonesia.

It claimed that the Bahasa speaking Christian native peoples in Malaysia had always and have continuously used the word ‘Allah’ for generations and from its earliest days the Bahasa congregation of the SIB have been freely using the Alkitab (Bible) which contains the word ‘Allah.’

It also said the minister had failed to consider that Sunday School books were meant for religious instruction of their children and not for sale outside the church or to be made available to members of the public, particularly Muslims.

The church claimed that the Christian native peoples of Sabah together with other non-Muslims have the legitimate expectation that there will be freedom of worship when Sabah joined the enlarged Malaysian Federation in 1963 despite Article 3 of the federal Constitution making Islam the religion of Malaysia.

It added that the Minister and the Federal government are obliged to meet and to fulfill the legitimate expectations of the Sabah SIB Church and the protection of their religious rights including the freedom to practise their religion without unlawful or unconstitutional interference.

The church said in applying for a stay order from the court is because a decision like the one made against it is an unilateral and arbitrary and administrative act of the minister and not a judicial or quasi-judicial decision. (By BOB TEOH/ MySinchew)

MySinchew 2008.01.16