Published: April 25, 2008
A Roman Catholic newspaper went to court Friday to challenge
the Malaysian government’s ban on its use of the word “Allah” as a
translation for God.
Authorities in this Muslim-majority nation ordered
December to stop using “Allah” in its Malay-language section. The paper
— the main organ of the in — was warned
it could lose its publishing license if it defied the order.
that they want to go to trial to reverse the government’s order.
“We are saying that the decision should be squashed and there should
also be a declaration that … is entitled to use the word
‘Allah’ in its publication, ” lawyer Porres told reporters after a
The government told
refers to the Muslim God. But the newspaper insists “Allah” has been
used for centuries to mean “God” in Malay.
It is basically a birth right to use the word ‘Allah’ because it is the
only word for God in the Malay language,” The Herald’s editor, Rev.
Lawrence Andrew, told .
The court is expected to hear further arguments next week. Dozens of
Christians packed Friday’s hearing, including Malaysia’s Roman Catholic
— which publishes reports in English, Malay, Mandarin and
Tamil — is still using the word “Allah,” but some fear it could lose
its publishing license when it comes up for annual review in October.
The case illustrates growing complaints by religious minorities that
their rights have been undermined by government efforts to bolster the
status of Islam, Malaysia’s official religion.
Ethnic Malays — who are legally required to be Muslim — comprise
nearly 60 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people, while ethnic Chinese
and Indians — mostly Buddhists, Christians and Hindus — are the
Dissatisfaction with court rulings over the right to leave Islam, along
with religious issues like the demolition of Hindu temples by state
authorities, contributed to the ruling government’s poor performance in
March elections, when it lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament.
In a separate case, the Sabah Evangelical Church of Borneo has also
filed a lawsuit to be allowed to use “Allah” after officials last year
banned the import of books containing the word. Hearings in that case
remain in the preliminary stages.
http://www.iht. com/articles/ ap/2008/04/ 25/asia/AS- GEN-Malaysia- Allah-Ban\