A court in Malaysia has ruled that non-Muslims may not use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to god, overturning a 2009 ruling on the matter.
The country’s appeals court ruled that permitting Malaysia’s Christian, Hindu and Buddhist communities to use the word would “cause confusion” and was “not an integral part of the faith in Christianity”.
The previous verdict by the lower court in 2009 had allowed a Malay language version of the Catholic-owned Herald newspaper to use the word. Lawyers for that newspaper had argued that use of the word Allah predated Islamic beliefs and had been used by the region’s Malay-speaking Christians for centuries. In neighbouring Indonesia, Christian communities commonly use the word, derived from Arabic, to refer to god.
The Herald’s editor Reverend Lawrence Andrew said that he would appeal against the decision. "It is a retrograde step in the development of law in relation to the fundamental liberty of religious minorities," he said.
Following the decision, more than 100 Muslims gathered outside of Malaysia’s appeals court to celebrate the verdict.
Malaysia’s population is divided along ethnic and religious boundaries, which has led to communal tensions in the past. The country is home ethnic Malay, Chinese and Indian communities, with beliefs including Islam, Christianity and Hinduism widely practised.