Home minister says directive to be issued on ‘Allah’ use, talks with faith leaders not related to Sarawakian Christian’s court case

Ida Lim
·6-min read
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin speaks during a press conference at the Le Meridien Hotel in Putrajaya April 15, 2021. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin speaks during a press conference at the Le Meridien Hotel in Putrajaya April 15, 2021. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, April 15 — The Home Ministry will issue an administrative directive soon on the use of the word “Allah”, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said today.

Hamzah said this after two sets of roundtable talks on the “Allah” issue, namely one with Muslims on Monday and one with non-Muslims today.

“All directives that will be issued by the ministry later is something that we wish to inform the citizens in this country according to existing Acts. Existing Acts empowers the minister to issue directives,” he told reporters here at the Le Meridien Hotel in Putrajaya after the dialogue with non-Muslims.

He confirmed the directive to be issued would be on the use of the word “Allah” and a “few other words”.

Malay Mail understands that the roundtable talks with Hamzah on Monday involved 21 Muslim representatives including scholars and lawyers, and the roundtable talks this morning involved 17 non-Muslim representatives.

Hamzah said the dialogue today was held as the ministry wished to receive views from all regarding the use of the word “Allah” in Malaysia, noting that the non-Muslim attendees today included those from the Christian community via a few groups.

He said the ministry had invited all groups including those from Sabah and Sarawak, and that the ministry had also invited the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), groups representing the Hindu and Sikh religion, as well as academics and lawyers.

He said the ministry had carried out the talk to “find a way where we can achieve a consensus (kata sepakat) in terms of the use of the word ‘Allah’”, adding: “Directives that are done after this will be directives that can be accepted well by all”.

“God-willing, in that discussion, all want for religion to be a way for us to unite everyone in this country, we don’t want this issue to become an issue that can divide all of us in this country.

“Because the most important thing is our country, for us to find a way for all to live peacefully and in harmony.

“If that’s what we want, then certainly there are matters of tolerance that should be given. Tolerance does not only come from the majority, but also from all groups. The minority should also view this as something that can become a convergence towards the unity of people in this country,” he added.

Among other things, Hamzah said that all directives after this will take into account the Federal Constitution when it is placed as the priority, noting that this matter is also linked to existing laws in the respective states.

“We also determined that whatever we do must follow the existing laws in our country. We put the Federal Constitution as the foremost. If the Federal Constitution is the foremost, then whatever directive after this is something that takes into account the Constitution. It is also closely tied to the existing laws at the respective state levels,” he said.

Hamzah said he will collect and combine all the points from the talks and that he would call for its acceptance.

“And we will combine, we make it something that we can discuss again, with agreement by all quarters,” he said.

Asked whether all parties are agreeable to the directive that would be issued by the ministry, Hamzah said: “Yes, when there is discussion, that is the consensus for us to determine our future.”

Asked for details of the planned new Home Ministry directive, Hamzah said that such directives are issued from time to time under existing laws and that it is done as an administrative action as usual by the ministry.

As for the Act which the directive would be issued under, Hamzah said the ministry would use the applicable Act, noting that there are different Acts or federal law under the ministry such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) that can be used depending on the issue.

“If it is the issue of the word ‘Allah’, usage in where, which place, all that we should provide, so that it is resolved, so that people understand,” he said, adding that the planned directive is intended to give “certainty” and “understanding” to both Muslim and non-Muslim Malaysians about the use of the word ‘Allah’.

Jill Ireland’s case to be left to AGC

He clarified, however, that the two dialogue sessions were not in relation to a court case involving Sarawakian Bumiputera Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill.

Hamzah was asked whether the Home Ministry would be visiting Sabah and Sarawak or conduct video-conferencing sessions with church leaders in Sabah and Sarawak over the use of the word “Allah” as Jill Ireland is a Sarawakian.

In response, Hamzah said there was representation from Sarawak’s state capital.

“It’s not about the Jill Ireland issue, what we discussed is about the use of the word ‘Allah’, and I don’t want to talk about sub judice issues. The Jill Ireland case is another case, that we leave to the attorney general,” he said.

“About the issue of discussions, whether want to use the virtual method and so on, I invited all. There was also representative from Kuching, present. So there is no issue of wanting to discuss with semua ramai-ramai (with all or many). No, there are groups,” he said.

Later, when asked if the Home Ministry is looking for an out-of-court settlement in the Jill Ireland court case, Hamzah again stressed that he did not want to talk about the court case as it would be “sub judice at the moment”.

“I’m just talking about the kalimah ‘Allah’ (the word ‘Allah’), the use of the word ‘Allah’ and this we discuss how we want to use it in the future, that’s it,” he said, adding that the court case is up to the Attorney General’s Chambers.

When asked if this meant the Home Ministry will wait until the court decides in Jill Ireland’s case before the ministry issues any directive on the use of the word “Allah”, Hamzah indicated that there was no need to do so: “No, a directive is something that we do administratively.”

Hazmah indicated that there was a need to issue a directive as matters such as publishing publications will still go on.

In Jill Ireland’s case, the High Court had on March 10 decided in her favour, granting her three court declarations, including a declaration that the Home Ministry’s directive issued in 1986 — which banned the use of the word “Allah” in Christian publications — is unlawful and unconstitutional.

On March 15, it was reported that the federal government and home minister had filed an appeal via a notice of appeal dated March 12 against the High Court’s decision. This means that they had appealed to the Court of Appeal.

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