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Malaysian court upholds ban on Christian use of 'Allah'

Catholic editor is “shocked and disappointed”

Michael Lenz, Kuala Lumpur

Michael Lenz, Kuala Lumpur

Updated: October 13, 2013 10:41 PM GMT
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Malaysian court upholds ban on Christian use of 'Allah'

Muslims celebrate after the court upholds the ban

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Christians are still prohibited from using the word 'Allah' to refer to God after a Malaysian court upheld a ban on the practice.

The Court of Appeals on Monday overturned a decision a lower court made four years ago against a government ban on the use of the word Allah. Christian and human rights groups had complained the ban violated constitutional rights to freedom of religion. Muslim groups claimed the use of Allah by Christians could be a tool for converting Muslims to Christianity.

The three-judge appeals panel ruled that the use of Allah by Christians will “inevitably cause confusion within the community” and disrupt peace and harmony among Malyasia’s many religions. The judges said the ban did not infringe the rights of minority religions because the use of the name “Allah is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity”.

The majority of Malaysia’s 29 million people are Muslim.

Father Andrew Lawrence, editor in chief of the Catholic-run Herald Malaysia, said he was “shocked and disappointed” by the decision. The legal dispute stems from the Herald’s use of Allah in its Malay language weekly edition.

Outside the mosque-like court building in Putrajaya, a crowd of several hundred Muslims shouted “Allah Akbar” after the announcement of the court’s decision. Ibrahim Ali, president of the Islamic nationalist organization Perkasa, told the group, “today, we have retained the name Allah.” Ali also urged authorities to continue to monitor the use of Allah in Christian publications.

Malaysia’s minority religions have often complained that the government frequently infringes on their right to practice their faith. But Ali said the intention of the law was not to infringe the rights of Christians and other minority religions. “We respect the Christians; we consider them our brothers. We are for a harmonious multireligious Malaysia,” he told ucanews.com.

Christian leaders are expected to appeal against the decision in Malaysia’s Federal Court, the nation’s highest.

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