A court has ruled that a Malaysian Catholic weekly may not use the word “Allah” for God.
Malaysia’s Federal Court yesterday dismissed an earlier appeal challenging the Court of Appeal's ruling to ban the Herald from using the Arabic word in its Malay-language edition.
Malay-speaking Christians have long used the word “Allah” to refer to God.
Its editor, Fr Father Lawrence Andrew, described the verdict, which ends an eight-year legal battle between the Government and the archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, as “disappointing”.
He added: “We hope the rights and faith of the minorities in this country will not be oppressed.”
The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Julian Leow, told the Malaysian Insider: "I would like to believe this adverse decision is confined only to the Herald and will not open a Pandora's box on curbing the rights of minorities in managing our own religious affairs. In God we continue to pray and trust that there is light at the end of this tunnel".
Opponents had suggested that allowing the appeal would have confused Muslims and caused public unrest.
Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar, president of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia, pointed out that the ruling only referred to the newspaper. "Muslims are unhappy because the word ‘Allah’ was used to refer to a non-Muslim God.”
"But is not a blanket ruling that non-Muslims cannot use the word," he added.
But Gan Peng Sieu, a lawyer and politician with the Malaysia China Association, said the ruling was disappointing because it failed to address constitutional rights of minorities.
"The Federal Court is skirting away from answering constitutional issues which are left hanging.
"The people were expecting the Federal Court to do more as this is beyond politics; the duty of the Federal Court is to preserve and defend the Federal Constitution and the current state of the “Allah” issue will not do any good for the country."
Meanwhile today the High Court of Kuala Lumpur authorised the confiscation of eight CDs belonging to a Christian ethnic Sarawakian, Jill Ireland, because they contain within them the word "Allah", AsiaNews reported.