This article was originally published in The Malaysian Insider on 1 November 2013.
Lord Bobo, I’m confused. Many people are saying many different things about this issue. Can non-Muslims use Allah? Is the ban only in relation to The Herald? Or is the ban only applicable to Peninsular Malaysia, and non-Muslims in Sabah/Sarawak are free to use Allah? (Pening Kepala, via email)
Dear Pening Kepala, we are assuming you are based in Malaysia. Due to your assumed geographical location, Lord Bobo has to get some verification on a basic issue from you before proceeding to respond to this query — are you a Muslim?
If you are a Muslim, superb, please read on. If you are not, then whoa whoa whoa, hold on a minute there — who told you that you were entitled to be confused? You see, in the great hotbed of defenders of the Islamic faith that is Malaysia, only Muslims are entitled to be confused. And if they are confused, all arguments based on the law and this nonsensical notion of “human rights” are invalid. This supreme right to be confused is embedded in Malaysia’s Federal Constitution. Or an interpretation of the Constitution anyway. Or maybe it’s an interpretation of an interpretation of something that is vaguely similar but not at all the same as the Constitution.
So dear Pening Kepala, if you are a non-Muslim, please just go take a paracetamol and have a lie down and carry on with your life, or organised crime, or whatever other illegal activity it is that you’re supposedly up to. Alternatively, you can leave the country — see, who says non-Muslims aren’t given options in Malaysia?
Okay, sorry, His Supreme Eminenceness woke up on the wrong side of the galaxy and was feeling a little cynical at the start of this week’s column. Let’s have a proper look at this question of yours.
(We feel it important to point out that the preceding paragraphs are not legally or Constitutionally accurate, and should not be relied upon — yes, we’re looking at you, potential Federal Court judges doing online research for the grounds of judgment in the possible appeal of the Allah case.)
Anyway, if it makes you feel any better — many share your confusion about the use of the word Allah. In fact there is much confusion in Malaysia about a whole host of things. Who killed Altantuya? Did Teoh Beng Hock throw himself out of a window? Is the Proton Suprima really the best car in the world like all those ads are trying to tell us? But to return to your question — the answer is found in the law.
To summarise very, very briefly (and therefore not quite so accurately) — the decision upheld the Minister’s order to ban the use of the word Allah in a Catholic weekly publication called “The Herald” on the grounds that allowing the use of Allah would cause confusion and lead to public disorder and affect national security. Yeah. We know. They pulled out the holy trinity of “confusion”, “public disorder” and “national security” on this baby!
It is published by the Malaysian Catholic Church. So in one sense that decision is only between the Catholic Church and the Home Minister. But in another sense, that decision has legal implications across publications which use the word Allah.
Firstly, a non-Muslim organisation cannot use the word Allah in its publication — even if it is just for circulation among Christians. That is the legal perspective.
Secondly, it is a Court of Appeal decision — the second highest court in Malaysia. All High Courts are bound to follow it. So if another non-Muslim organisation publication seeks a publication permit and is denied it because it uses the word Allah, the Minister will win at the High Court for sure.
Thirdly, even if it came up to the Court of Appeal — the appellant has a heavy onus to show why the sitting Court of Appeal should disagree with their learned brethren (for they are, rightly or wrongly, presumed to be learned). Most Court of Appeals will respect their own decision and are unlikely to overturn it.
Fourthly, since the order emanates from the Home Minister, it has application throughout Malaysia.
Fifthly, it is a fair inference to make that the ban on the use of the word Allah would then similarly apply to a non-Muslim person, so long as he is a non-Muslim and uses the word he could cause public disorder and threaten national security.
Sixthly, it can also reasonably extend to speaking since one is just a verbal form of publication (and so much more limited) and another is a written form of publication. Both are in a sense publications.
(We’re kidding on that last one. Or maybe not.)
So from here we can answer all your questions.
“Can non-Muslims use Allah?” — No.
“Is the ban only in relation to The Herald?” — No.
“Is the ban only applicable to Peninsular Malaysia, and non-Muslims in Sabah/Sarawak are free to use Allah?” — The ban applies throughout the entirety of Malaysia because the Home Minister is in charge of domestic security for all the states, including Sabah and Sarawak.
In conclusion, dear Pening Kepala, there’s no need to be confused. It’s simple. All those politicians who say that the ban only applies to The Herald, or does not apply in Sabah and Sarawak, are mistaken. Or perhaps more accurately, they’re not mistaken — they’re lying. His Supreme Eminenceness Lord Bobo is all-knowing, and always right.
Now, please stop trusting whatever those politicians say already — haven’t you been paying attention to what His Supreme Eminenceness has been telling you about this?
Although Lord Bobo already knows your question before you even knew you had a question, as a practical display of your true desire to have your query answered, His Supreme Eminenceness has graciously allowed you to communicate your questions by either emailing [email protected] or tweeting your question, mentioning @LoyarBurok and using the hashtag #AskLordBobo. Now, what the hell are you waiting for? Hear This and Tremblingly Obey (although trembling is optional if you are somewhere very warm)!