Seven-man Federal Court bench hearing ‘Allah’ case today BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/newthread.php?do=newthread&f=475 An unprecedented seven-man Federal Court bench has been constituted to hear the Catholic Church's leave application on the "Allah" case today, which will begin shortly. Chairing the bench is Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria. Others are Tan Sri Raus Sharif, Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar, Datuk Zainun Ali and Datuk Jeffrey Tan Kok Hwa. Leave applications and appeals are normally heard by a five-member bench. Only on two occasions in the past had a seven-member panel been constituted to hear dadah-trafficking cases involving important legal principles. In early February, the church sent a letter to Arifin to convey its request for a full panel comprising of Muslim and non-Muslim judges be constituted to hear its arguments. The church also wants a panel comprising of judges who reflected the nation's multiracial and multi-religious diversity, given the nature of the issues raised. "This is because fundamental constitutional provisions relating to state religion, freedom of minority religion, freedom of expression, which have far-reaching consequences for Malaysians of all races and religions, will be raised," according to a letter sighted by The Malaysian Insider. The church has submitted 26 questions on the Constitution, administrative law as well as the power of the court to allow the home minister to ban the use of a theological word. These questions were part of the application filed by lawyers for the church, seeking leave to appear before the Federal Court to challenge the Court of Appeal's ruling on the "Allah" issue. On October 14, a three-member bench led by Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali – which allowed Putrajaya's appeal to ban the Herald from using the word "Allah" – said there was a 1986 directive by the Home Ministry that prohibited non-Muslim publications from using four words: "Allah", "Kaabah", "Solat" and "Baitullah". Apandi in his judgment said the reason for the prohibition was to protect the sanctity of Islam and prevent any confusion among Muslims. He also ruled that if the word was allowed to be used by Christians, it could threaten national security and public order. Furthermore, the court said the prohibition was reasonable on grounds that the word "Allah" was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice. The decision sparked an outcry among Christians and other non-Muslims in both the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak. Church groups and MCA have also sent lawyers to hold watching brief of the proceedings today. Gan Peng Siew, a former vice president, is representing the party while Syahredzan Johan is appearing for the Malaysian Bar Council. Other organisations represented are the Commonwealth Law Association; Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism; World Council of Churches; Christian Federation of Malaysia; Council of Churches Malaysia; Sidang Injil Borneo (peninsula); Sidang Injil Borneo (Sabah); Sidang Injil Borneo (Sarawak); Association of Churches of Sarawak; and Sabah Council of Churches. Six religious councils and the Malaysian Muslim Association are joining Putrajaya to oppose the church's leave application. The courtroom was packed with court staff and policemen adding chairs to accommodate the public who included diplomatic officers from foreign embassies. – March 5, 2014.