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Christians lose divisive bid to use 'Allah' in Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA - PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia, June 23, 2014 (AFP) - Malaysia's highest court on Monday dismissed a bid by Christians for the right to use the word "Allah", ending a years-long legal battle that has escalated religious tensions in the Muslim-majority country.

The divisive case, in which the Catholic Church challenged a government ban on its long-time use of the Arabic word to refer to God, came amid concern from minorities who feel their rights are under threat by rising Islamisation in the Southeast Asian nation.

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

A seven-judge panel in the administrative capital Putrajaya ruled a lower court decision siding with the government stood.

"It (the Court of Appeal) applied the correct test, and it is not open for us to interfere," chief justice Arifin Zakaria said.

Analysts termed the ruling a "vote-winner" for the government.

S. Selvarajah, one of the church's lawyers, said his team would explore further ways to challenge the ban.

"It's a blanket ban. Non-Muslims cannot use the word. It has a major impact," he told AFP.

The Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew said the judgement "didn't touch on the fundamental rights of minorities".

"We are greatly disappointed by this judgement," he said.

Outside the court, which was cordoned off, about a hundred Muslim activists cheered the news of the verdict.

Earlier, they had shouted "Allahu Akbar" or "God is great" and waved banners that read "Uniting to defend the name of Allah".

"I'm very pleased and happy that we have won the case. I hope the issue will be put to rest," Ibrahim Ali, head of Muslim rights group Perkasa, told AFP.

"We must defend 'Allah' because this is our religious obligation. I hope other communities, including Christians, understand this."

- Danger of conversion? -

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The dispute first erupted in 2007 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the publishing permit of the Herald for using the Arabic word in its Malay-language edition.

The Church launched a court case to challenge the directive, arguing "Allah" had been used for centuries in Malay-language Bibles and other literature to refer to "God" outside of Islam.

But authorities say using "Allah" in non-Muslim literature could confuse Muslims and entice them to convert, a crime in Malaysia.

In 2009 a court ruled in favour of the Church, sparking a spate of attacks on houses of worship. Last October, an appeals court reinstated the ban.

Malaysia has largely avoided overt religious conflict in recent decades, but tensions have been growing.

Two petrol bombs were thrown at a Malaysian church in January, causing minor damage.

Also in January, Islamic authorities seized hundreds of Bibles, which contained the word "Allah", from a Christian group.

About 2.6 million people among the Southeast Asian nation's 28 million people are Christians, who come from mostly ethnic Chinese, Indian or indigenous backgrounds, while 60 percent are Muslim ethnic Malay.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who took office in 2009, has increasingly rolled back his initial reformist and conciliatory rhetoric in a bid to please hardliners of his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which has ruled the country virtually uninterrupted since 1957 independence.

James Chin, a political science professor at Monash University, said it was unlikely authorities would use the verdict to start seizing Malay-language Bibles and other literature containing the word "Allah" on a large scale or crack down on Malay-language church services.

"The idea is to use this as a political weapon to raise tensions," he told AFP. "They (the ruling party) feel that this is a vote-winner for the next election."

June 23, 2014    karman.carmi5@
True Christians know that Allah is not the name of the Judean/Christian God who goes by the name of Jehova/Yaweh/YHWH. Allah was the name of one of the about 360 idols placed in the Kaaba and worshipped by the pagan Arabs. In fact Mohammed's father was named "Abdullah" which means "servant of Allah". It was the "spirit" Jibrail who informed Mohammed that Allah was the same god as the god that Jews and Christians worshipped. But true Christians know better: Galatians 1:3-8
June 23, 2014    nuttyazn@
The Malays have a word for God - Tuhan. The Christians can use that, no need to say the "A" word.

In fact, it should be published that Non Muslims should not use the "A" Word and Muslims should not use the "A" word when in the presence of Non Muslims.

Don’t print the "A" word in English or any Non Muslim's publications, News etc. We don’t see it, or hear it, we will not even talk about it. No need for discussion ever.

The Muslims can use the "A" word amongst themselves behind closed doors when they are with their own kind.
June 24, 2014    inpt19@
Quote:

Verse 1. SAY : HE IS GOD THE ONE AND ONLY: Verse 2. GOD THE ETERNAL THE ABSOLUTE: Verse 3. HE BEGETS NOT, NOR HE IS BEGOTTEN: Verse 4. THERE IS NONE COMPARABLE UNTO HIM.
HOLY QURAN SURA 112: Verses 1 to 4 .

If the Malaysian Christians accept the above definition of God, they can use the Arabic term Allah to indicate one True Almighty God.

But in the case of the Christians they say that the one and only son of God is Jesus Christ. This goes against the above definition of God given by the Quran. That is God is not the son of anybody and God is not the father of anybody.

When the Malaysian Christians translate the Bible from English to Malay language, whenever the Bible uses the word God in English, they can use the name Allah (in the Malay language Bible).

But when the word FATHER is used in English Bible, the word father as Malaysian Christians argue should not be translated into Malay language as Allah.

This is because the Malaysian Muslims protest that Allah is not the father of anybody.

Also whenever the name of Jesus (or son or similar word) comes in the English Bible, the Malaysian Muslims argue that it should not be translated as Allah.

This is tantamount to deceiving the less educated Malay Muslims to make them follow Christianity without misgivings. Christian missionary work by financial incentive is very strong in Malaysia.

June 27, 2014    michaeltaiwan@
No it was the Muslims who encouraged the use of the name Allah to facilitate continuity when converting (from the God of the Jews to Christian and finally to Muslim and the Last Prophet...all the same God: Allah). Now today's Muslims in Malaysia want to ignore this part of their history. Anyway the Arabic Moon God (on Muslim country flags and on Mosques) is not the God of the Christians and Jews so this is a mute point.
July 1, 2014    ludahai_twn@
Allah is simply the Arabic word for god. Arab Christians also use this word in the name for God. The Malaysian Muslims here are ignorant of the history of the Arabic words.
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A Muslim woman holds a banner reading "Allah" during a protest outside the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, June 23.

(AP)

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