Malaysian court bans Catholic paper’s use of Allah

Catholics in Malaysia will continue to use the word Allah to refer to God in the liturgy, despite a court ruling that only Muslims may use the word.

The Court of Appeal decision was specifically against a Catholic newspaper, the Malaysia Herald, which intends to lodge an appeal.

Malaysia’s leading Catholic bishop, Archbishop Murphy Pakiam of Kuala Lumpur, said Catholics will continue to refer to God as Allah, as they have done since the 17th century.

The controversy over the use of Allah began when government authorities threatened to take away the Herald’s publishing licence because it used the word in its Malay-language edition.

The newspaper won a lower court decision, but angry Muslims attacked churches and began pressing the government to enforce a ban on the use of Allah by non-Muslims.

The editor of the Herald, Father Lawrence Andrew, described the latest decision as “a violation of our rights”. He said Christian communities in neighbouring Muslim countries like Indonesia and Brunei are allowed to use the word Allah for God, as are Christians in the Middle East.

The chief judge in the appeal court, Apandi Mohamed Ali, said: “The usage of the word Allah is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity. The usage of the word will cause confusion in the community.”

Malaysia’s population is 60 per cent Muslim, 19 per cent Buddhist, 6 per cent Hindu, 6 per cent Protestant and 3 per cent Catholic.

The controversy over Allah has prompted the non-Muslim religions to form a council to safeguard their religious freedom.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Agricultural Development in the Malaysian state of Sarawak — one of the territories that make up the Malaysian part of Borneo Island — has described the court decision as “not authentic” and announced that Christians in the area can continue to use Allah to define their God.


Radio Australia


Herald Malaysia Online


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News category: World.

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