Lesson Plans - Law

Only Muslims can use 'Allah'  

Lesson Plan:

GRADE(S): 6 - 12 (or older grades inexperienced with mock trials)


Using allah image source Asian Sentinel
Editors note: this case is about the role of government in controlling freedoms of relegion and speech.
DURATION: 1 class period

LANGUAGE: English (can easily be adapted to the language of the classroom)

AUTHOR: Keerock Rook, The Learning Foundation

At the end of this lesson, students should be able to...
• identify the process for settling a legal dispute (how are the facts of the case presented; how is the dispute resolved)
• identify key players in a legal dispute (who presents the facts; who makes the final decision)
• determine what makes a decision fair.
Small group deliberation in simplified mock-trial format; class is divided into three groups for mock trial; groups of three, one each acting as judge, accused and accuser, for review discussion.
A full-scale mock trial can be an intimidating prospect for an elementary classroom-both for teacher and students. This lesson plan for a simplified mock-trial provides an opportunity to experience the fundamentals of a trial.
Beginning with a cast of three characters, students will develop skills that will lead them safely into more complicated cases. The basic tenets of the lesson include those items covered in the learning objectives. Understanding that the purpose of a trial is to settle a dispute between two people, the two parties are given an opportunity to present their side of the story to a judge. With the final authority resting with him/her, the judge takes some time to clarify issues with each party and then makes a decision that is seen to be fair to each party.
Without distinguishing between civil and criminal issues, this lesson illustrates the essentials of our adversary system: that each party is allowed to tell his/her side of the story, that the judge is the person with the authority to settle the dispute, that a fair decision is presented with reasons supporting that decision.
RECOMMENDED STUDENT MATERIALS: Copies of facts for accused and accuser; copies of Steps in the Trial for the judges.

Prepare fact sheets for the accused and accuser groups to read before beginning their trial. Make copies of the
Steps in the Trial for distribution to the judges group.
• Divide the class into three groups; each group represents the judge, the accuser, or the accused.
• Give fact sheets to the accused and the accuser groups, but not to the judge group. Give a copy of the Steps in the Trial to the judge group.
• Allow time for the groups to discuss their strategy: who will present their case, and how they will present their side of the story. Each group should choose a spokesperson to represent them in the trial.
• Follow the Steps in the Trial described below.
• Time permitting, repeat the trial with a different set of students representing each side of the story and the judge.
• Talk as a class about the trial(s) and the results. Ask for reactions to each role: how did it feel to be the judge, the accused, the accuser?
• Review the objectives for other teaching points.
Fact Situation:

Editors note: The facts in the case are from The Asia Sentinel article:  Malaysia Takes God's Name in Vain.
The Malaysian authorities' refused to renew the publication of the weekly Catholic newspaper The Herald unless it stops using the word Allah as the word for God in the Malay language. According to Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum, "Only Muslims can use 'Allah'. It's a Muslim word, you see. It's from (the Arabic language). The word 'Allah' is published by the Catholics. It's not right. We cannot let other religions use it because it will confuse people." he was reported as saying.
The Newspaper answered, Muslims, like Christians, do not worship a person called Allah. They worship a single supreme being, which the Arabic language denotes as Allah. An English Koran uses the words "In the name of God the compassionate and merciful," not "In the name of Allah the compassionate and merciful." For Muslims, Jesus was a prophet of Islam, and the Koran represents the continuation of God's revelation begun in the Old Testament. If Malaysian Malays are confused about the distinction between Islam and Christianity because they use the same word to describe the one God, clearly there is a lot wrong with the educational system.
Steps in the Trial
1. Let the Malaysian authorities (the accuser) tell her/his side of the story.
2. Let the Newspaper (the accused) tell her/his side of the story.
3. Let the judge ask the Newspaper and the Malaysian authorities questions.
4. Give the judge a few minutes to think.
5. Let the judge make a decision that is fair.
6. Let the judge explain his or her reasons.

Lead whole-class summation discussion based on the objectives stated earlier. Older students might be given a written assignment. In groups of three, one representing each role, prepare a one page summary of the trial, that presents each side of the story and the judge's decision, with reasons.

Related Lesson on Relegious rights in Malaysia:
Choosing Relegion in Malaysia (image source - jupiterimages.com)
A Malaysian Federal Court said Joy, now age 41, who was born to Muslim parents and began attending church in 1990, should seek permission to renounce Islam from Islamic Shariah courts. Joy, however, has refused to seek the Shariah court's permission, saying she is a Christian and should not be bound by Islamic laws. As far as is known, only one person has ever been allowed to leave Islam in Malaysia. An 89-year old woman named Nyonya Tahir who converted to Buddhism in 1936 had her decision accepted  69 years later  in 2006, after she had died. From: Doing the Impossible: Quitting Islam in Malaysia - By Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob - Asia Sentinel
The New York Times - Learning Network - Understanding the Quest to Protect Human Rights. Overview: Students explore the concept of human rights by developing and defending their own "Bills of Human Rights" and by writing a reflective essay that compares their notions of human rights and the protection of them... Go to this Law and Society Lesson.

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