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Malaysian government to appeal ‘Allah’ case

Controversy over non-Muslims using the word

Gulf News

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia’s government on Thursday won the right to appeal a court ruling that allowed the country’s non-Muslim minority to use the word ‘Allah’.

Appeal hearings are scheduled to start on September 10 to resolve the politically sensitive dispute that triggered attacks on Malaysian churches and other places of worship more than three years ago.

The government, however, insists that ‘Allah’ is an Islamic word and that its use by others would confuse Muslims.

Roman Catholic representatives say the government’s curb on their use of ‘Allah’ is unreasonable because Christians who speak the Malay language had long also used the word in their literature and songs before authorities sought to enforce the ban in recent years.

A nearly six-year-old court dispute over the issue stems from efforts by the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Church in Malaysia to use ‘Allah’ in its Malay-language publication.

Malaysia’s Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled that the government has the right to challenge a 2009 verdict by a lower court that permitted the newspaper to use ‘Allah’.

That earlier verdict sparked a string of arson attacks and vandalism at 11 churches, a Sikh temple, three mosques and two Muslim prayer rooms. The government’s ban remains in effect because of a stay order on the verdict until the appeals process is completed.