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High Court’s 96-page judgment on why Malaysia’s 1986 ‘Allah’ ban was quashed
Explainer: High Court’s 96-page judgment on why Malaysia’s 1986 ‘Allah’ ban was quashed in Jill Ireland's case

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — The High Court recently quashed the Home Ministry’s 1986 total ban of the word “Allah” in all Christian publications in Malaysia, but how and why did the court arrive at such a decision?

Malay Mail went through the full grounds of the March 10 judgment — numbering 96 pages in total, and made available on March 17— to try and answer those questions.

But first, the facts of the case to help you understand the judgment:

The facts
Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, a Sarawakian of the Melanau tribe, went through Malaysia’s national education system where she was taught in Bahasa Malaysia.

Jill Ireland and her family use Bahasa Malaysia to practise their Christian faith — including in their prayers — while also using the Alkitab (or the Bible) in Bahasa Indonesia as well as written and audio-visual materials in Bahasa Indonesia.

While some Muslims in Malaysia believe the word “Allah” to be exclusive to Islam, the Arabic word had long been adopted into Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia to refer to God, and is also part of terms in the indigenous languages of natives in Sabah and Sarawak that refer to God. Such use can be traced back to hundreds of years ago, well before the Home Ministry’s written directive in 1986 to ban such usage.

On May 11, 2008, Jill Ireland had eight educational compact discs (CDs) — each containing the word “Allah” in their titles — for her personal religious use when she landed in Malaysia upon her return from Indonesia, but all eight were seized by the Customs Department which then referred the case to the Home Ministry.

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