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Christians forbidden to say 'Allah' in Malaysia

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/25/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Malaysian Catholics have long used 'Allah' to refer to the Christian god

Catholics in Malaysia are forbidden to say the word "Allah," which is the Arabic name for God, in Malaysia. Malaysia's highest court has upheld the ban, ending a years-long legal battle. Observers see the verdict as a test case for the country's wider Christian congregation. In the meantime, officials insist the verdict is confined to one Catholic newspaper. Worshipers can still use "Allah" to refer to God in church, the Malaysian government says.

Authorities maintain that using 'Allah' in non-Muslim literature could confuse Muslims and entice them to convert, which is a crime in Malaysia.

Authorities maintain that using "Allah" in non-Muslim literature could confuse Muslims and entice them to convert, which is a crime in Malaysia.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
6/25/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Malaysia, Allah, Catholics, forbidden, court case


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a highly divisive case, the Catholic Church here challenged a ban on its appropriation of the Arabic word. Overall, minorities claim their rights are under threat from the creeping "Islam-ization" they say is sweeping Malaysia.

The Malay government had previously banned the use of "Allah" in the local Malay-language edition of the Church's Herald newspaper. The use of the word had angered Muslims, who claim Christians are overstepping religious boundaries.

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A seven-judge panel in Malaysia's administrative capital Putrajaya upheld a lower court decision which sided with the government's ban.

"The ruling only applies to the Herald newspaper's use of the word 'Allah.' Malaysian Christians can still use the word 'Allah' in church," a government spokesman reiterated.

Christians say they had used the Arabic word to refer to God in Malay for centuries.

"The Christian community continues to have the right to use the word 'Allah' in our Bibles, church services and Christian gatherings," Eu Hong Seng, chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, said.

Lawyers for the Catholic Church said they would explore new ways to challenge the ban, which fear the ruling could be used as a precedent to curtail religious freedom in other cases.

A hundred Muslim activists outside the courtroom cheered the news of the verdict. They had earlier shouted "Allahu Akbar," or God is great and waved banners that read "Uniting to defend the name of Allah."

"We must defend Allah because this is our religious obligation. I hope other communities, including Christians, understand this," Ibrahim Ali, head of Muslim rights group Perkasa, said.

The issue first began when Malaysia's home ministry in 2007 threatened to revoke the Herald's publishing permit for using the Arabic word in its Malay-language edition.

The Church argued that "Allah" had been used for centuries in Malay-language Bibles and other literature to refer to "God" outside of Islam.

Authorities maintain that using "Allah" in non-Muslim literature could confuse Muslims and entice them to convert, which is a crime in Malaysia.

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