07/12/2014, 00.00
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For Sepang Muslim MP, Catholic rights violated in Allah controversy

Mohamed Hanipa Maidin demands justice for ‘The Herald’ and Malaysia’s Christian community, which has been under attack for some time. The decision to turn down a request for leave to appeal is against the Constitution because the case touches the public interest and raises an important constitutional question. Wondering about the “actual meaning of religious freedom" in Malaysia, he reiterated that Catholics did not violate any rule or principle.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - "I was me upset with the decision of the Federal Court refusing leave for The Herald to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal. As a lawyer, I find the decision weird. As a Muslim, I am of the view that justice was not done to The Herald. [. . .] The Federal Court should have" allowed the paper "the leave to appeal," said Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, a Muslim lawmaker from  of the District of Sepang, in his comments published by the Catholic weekly The Herald.

An "appeal to the Federal Court is not automatic," he explained, but it is now "common practice". What is more, "the practice has been that the apex court would normally grant the leave when the issue at hand involves novel and crucial legal or a constitutional question".

A lawyer by profession and a member of the Central Committee of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), Maidin rejects the arguments cited by the judges to justify their decision. Instead, he renews his support for and solidarity to the Catholic Church and the Christian community in Malaysia, which is going through a delicate moment in its history. In fact, Malaysia's Christian community has been the recent target of attacks, including church burning, the desecration of Christian graves and the seizure of 300 Bibles in January.

The clash over the use of the word Allah to describe the Christian God is at the root of the violence. Indeed, what started out as a legal battle between the federal government and the Catholic weekly The Herald has now become a national controversy. 

On 23 June, the High Court dismissed the request for the leave to appeal made by the Catholic weekly. However, the lawyer has no doubts that the issue raised by The Herald "met all the legal prerequisites for leave because it raised a very important constitutional issue, namely the correct interpretation of Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

The fact that seven Federal Court judges heard the leave application spoke volumes of the significance of the appeal. Yet, the leave was simply denied.

Now the Muslim lawmaker is wondering about the "actual meaning of religious freedom" in the country because "even though Allah has been used by many non-Muslims throughout the world," a Malaysian court decided that in Malaysia, "freedom of religion excludes non-Muslims from using this sacred word."

"Was this the actual meaning of freedom of religion envisaged by Islam or by our forefathers who drafted the Constitution?" he asks.

The Herald never violated any constitutional rights, yet for Mohamed Hanipa Maidin the Federal Court "abdicated its solemn duty to protect the right of David against the mighty Goliath". 

Citing the teachings of the great Muslim sage Ibnu Qayyim Al Jauziyyah, he said that "Islam is all about justice, mercy and wisdom . . . anything which transgresses the principle of justice or mercy or wisdom has nothing to do with Islam."

In Malaysia, Muslim are 60 per cent of the more than 28 million people, Christians are the third largest religious group (after Buddhists) with more than 2.6 million members. 

The publication of a Latin-Malay 400 year ago shows that the term Allah was already in use to describe God in the Bible in the local language.

In Kuala Lumpur, out of a population of over 11 million people, Catholics number more than 180,000 with 55 priests and 154 religious, but only one permanent deacon.



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