Press Statements and Articles

More Than Just A Case!

18 July 2014

More Than Just A Case!

The Jill Ireland case is coming up for decision on the 21 July 2014. To many, this case is just another occasion for the "Allah" controversy to ventilate itself and presents yet another example of how contentious the issue is. And so it seems, cases like these would only disrupt the social-religious life of Malaysian society further.

But far from being just another case where the word "Allah" is in issue, there is a growing realisation that cases like Jill Ireland is really a showcase where religious freedom in the country could either be threatened or affirmed.

In brief, the Jill Ireland case concerns an individual right to import publication into the country in exercise of the individual's right to practise his or her religion including the use of the word "Allah". It is about the rights of all persons to be equal before the law and to be protected from discrimination on the grounds of religion. One may say, in many ways, it is not Jill Ireland that is only on trial but each and every individual who wish to profess and practise his or her religion in peace and harmony.

We know that such fundamental rights are enshrined in the Federal Constitution but what is disconcerting is that such fundamental rights are simply eroded due to increased state interference in the cultural and religious spheres of life. Under such circumstances, the government is constantly under pressure from specific groups and the failure of the judiciary system to address religious grievances in a just and equitable manner has escalated tension and is simply counter-productive.

If these fundamental liberties as provided in the constitution are eroded further, it will ultimately affect every person of different religion and their way of life. This will eventually result in the fragmentation of the various religious-ethnic groups in the country.

Nation building is a long term enterprise. And if the church is to contribute to nation building in a positive and effective manner, there is an urgency to ensure religious space and social cohesion is maintained. If indeed this is the urgency, what are the threats to freedom of religion in the country?

In the Jill Ireland case, Brother Lim Heng Seng, the lead counsel posed this question to the High Court Judge, "are we to be governed by the rule of law or to be ruled by religious bureaucracy?" A poignant question, but it illustrates aptly the threats to religious freedom in Malaysian life.

If Malaysia is to be a "rainbow" nation of many colours and mix, religious freedom must take its central place within national life. So really, the use of the word "Allah" and the Jill Ireland case is more than just a word or a case!

What can Christians do? 1 Peter 4:8-12 calls on all Christians to,

have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For,

"whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."

 

For the upcoming decision, we urge churches and Christians to continue to pray for the following:

  1. Pray for a fair and just judgement by the Judge, Dato' Zaleha Bt Yusof. She was the same judge who presided over the SIB Sabah High Court case where she refused leave for SIB Sabah to proceed with their case.
  2. Pray for God's sovereign control over this case. Pray that whatever the outcome of the judgement may be, that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Pray for God's divine purpose and plan for our nation, especially for East Malaysia to be fulfilled through this court case.
  3. Pray for our Bahasa Malaysia speaking believers to stand firm in their faith and their position in protecting their right to use their Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia Alkitab and all the keys words which are controversial in light of these recent legal cases.
  4. Pray for the Church of Malaysia to awake, to rise up and cry out to our sovereign Lord for help in protecting our freedom of religion and worship in this land and that the government will go all the way to preserve and protect the fundamental liberties enshrined in our constitution for all.




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