Saturday, 24 January 2015

Allah for Muslims Only ? - 2

On 23 June last year I blogged about a case in Malaysia where the Government had prevented the Catholic Herald of Malaysia from using the word "Allah" in its Malay publication.  In its Judgment Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v Negeri & Ors Civil Application No.: 08-690-11/2013 the Federal Court of Malaysia, which is the highest Court in the Country, noted [para 30]
" the reasons given by the Minister in his Affidavit In Reply, it is clear that he was concerned with national security and public order."

the Federal Court in the same paragraph endorsed the view of the Court of Appeal
"the usage of the word ‘Allah' particularly in the Malay version of the Herald, is without doubt, do have the potential to disrupt the even tempo of the life of the Malaysian community."

In its Judgement the Federal Court basically took a very narrow and technical view of its powers of Judicial Review and regarded the decision as one that fell within the area of Executive discretion.  

The Catholic Church recently applied to the Federal Court to reconsider its Judgment on the basis that it had not properly taken account of the provisions of the Constitution of Malaysia  relating to religious freedom.  Not surprisingly perhaps the Federal Court having looked at its own decision decided it had been right all along and so the possibility of any further review of the Federal Court decision has ended see News Links HERE, HERE, HERE, There appears to be no further legal route for the Catholic Church to appeal this ban on it using the word "Allah" for God in Malay services and publications and there are already attempts to try to stop the Catholic Herald publishing anything in Malay.

As an outsider this decision by the Malaysian Government to try to control the use of the word "Allah" seems bizarre.  Arab Christians use "Allah" and I was recently in Malta, an extremely Catholic country, where in services God is routinely called "Alla".  In a strange way to try to keep Allah as a word only to be used by Muslims actually diminishes "Allah" who ceases to be "the God", the one true creator of the Universe and instead becomes merely the God of Muslims on a par with Zeus or Odin.   

I wonder however whether this idea of restricting the use of the word "Allah" will spread within the Muslim World.  A particular danger may be that the Ahmadiyya Muslims will be targeted and prevented from using the word "Allah" in their services.  They are not regarded as "true" Muslims by most Sunni and Shia groups and are already prevented from describing themselves as Muslims in many countries

Monday, 19 January 2015

Caste Discrimination in the Employment Tribunal

A recent case in the Employment Appeal Tribunal has accepted that Caste Discrimination, may (and I emphasise "may") constitute a subset of Racial Discrimination for the purposes of a Discrimination claim under the Equality Act 2010.

In  Chandhok v Tirkey  [2014] UKEAT 0190_14_1912 a claim was brought by a former domestic worker against her former employers alleging that they had treated her in a demeaning and prejudiced manner.  Both the worker and her employers were of Indian origin though she alleged that the reason for this treatment was her perceived lower caste status.  The defendants applied to strike out that element of the claim since caste is not one of the "protected characteristics" listed in the Equality Act  

The ET and the EAT refused this application in large part because it was possible that, on the facts of the case, the caste of the claimant arose from her descent in which case it could fall under the definition of race.  If caste was for some other reason, ie religious, then it would not constitute race discrimination.  The matter had to be decided on its own facts and therefore the "caste" element of the race discrimination claim could not be dismissed without a hearing where it could be determined whether on the facts it could fall within the protected characteristic of race/ethic origin.

The decision certainly does not throw open the doors to straightforward claims of caste discrimination but it does make such claims easier to bring which is something that caste activists have been seeking for some time.  Whilst caste as a formal concept is inextricably linked to the Indian sub continent it is not unique to Hinduism.  There is a great deal of evidence that both Muslims and Sikhs continue to have a strong conciousness of caste even though the concept is condemned by their own religions.

Interestingly on 31st December 2014 Parliament issued The Equality Act 2010: caste discrimination - Commons Library Standard Note which is a useful source of information on the issue including mention of the Chandhok case.  I can also heartily recommend Caste discrimination: the Government’s progress which is a posting in April 2014 on the invaluable Law and Religion UK Blog