Don’t use ‘Allah’ unless you’re Muslim, Malaysian top court rules

Published: June 23, 2014

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, 2014. The Federal Court on Monday refused to grant leave to hear the appeal by the Catholic church over the word Allah in its newspaper. AP Photo/Vincent Thian

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS and POSTMEDIA NEWS

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s top court ruled Monday that non-Muslims cannot use the word “Allah” to refer to God, delivering the final word on a contentious debate that has reinforced complaints that religious minorities are treated unfairly in the Muslim-majority country.

In a 4-3 judgment, the Federal Court rejected a challenge by the Roman Catholic Church and upheld a government ban on the use of the word. Most Christians in Malaysia worship in English, Tamil or various Chinese dialects, and refer to God in those languages but some Malay-speaking people on Borneo island have no other word for God but “Allah,” a Malay word derived from Arabic.

The church had argued that the ban failed to consider the rights of all minorities in the largely Muslim nation. The lengthy court cases, which began in 2009, had also raised the fundamental question whether freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution is real.

“We are disappointed. The four judges who denied us the right to appeal did not touch on fundamental basic rights of minorities,” said Rev. Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald, the newspaper at the centre of the controversy.

“It will confine the freedom of worship,” he said. “We are a minority in this country, and when our rights are curtailed, people feel it.”

The Federal Court ruled that the church had no grounds to appeal last year’s lower court decision that banned the use of “Allah” in the Malay-language weekly. The Catholic Church may ask the court to review the decision, Andrew said.

The government says Allah should be reserved exclusively for Muslims, who make up nearly two-thirds of the country’s 29 million people. If other religions use the term, that could confuse Muslims and lead them to convert away from Islam, it claims.

Christian leaders deny this, arguing that the ban is unreasonable because Christians who speak the Malay language have long used the word in their Bibles, prayers and songs. Christians make up about 9 per cent of the population.

The ban appears to apply mostly to published materials, not spoken words, and newspapers using the term would lose their license. Imported Malay-language Bibles containing the term Allah, typically from Indonesia, already have been blocked. Beyond that, it wasn’t clear what the punishment would be for violating the ban.

Muslim women sit in front of a banner reading “Allah” during a protest outside the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, June 23, 2014. The Federal Court on Monday refused to grant leave to hear the appeal by the Catholic church over the word Allah in its newspaper. AP Photo/Vincent Thian

“This is a sad state of affairs that shows how far and fast religious tolerance is falling in Malaysia,” said Phil Robertson, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch. “The Malaysian government should be working to promote freedom of religion rather politically exploiting religious wedge issues.”

The controversy has provoked violence in Malaysia.

Anger over a lower court ruling against the government ban in 2009 led to a string of arson attacks and vandalism at churches and other places of worship. A 2013 judgment by the Court of Appeals reversed that decision, prompting the Catholic church to ask the Federal Court to overturn it.

An umbrella group of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches in Malaysia said Christians will continue to use the word Allah in their Bibles and worship, saying the court ruling was only confined to the Catholic newspaper.

“We maintain that the Christian community continues to have the right to use the word ‘Allah’ in our Bibles, church services and Christian gatherings,” Rev. Eu Hong Seng, chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, said in a statement.

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters he welcomed the ruling, but said he hoped no groups would politicize the matter and use it to divide races.

“This is an emotional issue that can affect the country’s (racial) harmony. We must handle it with wisdom,” he said. “The court has made a decision, so let’s accept it.”

Some experts believe the Allah issue is an attempt by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling Malay party to strengthen its conservative Muslim voter base. Religion has become an easy tool because government policies have made Islam and Malay identity inseparable.

“This is a situation that is peculiar to Malaysia. It is tied to politics and the identity of Malays. It is a bending of the interpretation of Islam to suit Malay politics and Malay interests,” said Ibrahim Suffian, who heads the Merdeka Center opinion research company.

The issue hasn’t surfaced in other majority Muslim nations with sizeable Christian minorities.

In Egypt, where at least 10 per cent of the population is Christian, both Muslims and Christians refer to God as “Allah,” and this hasn’t generated any controversy or antagonism. Christians often refer to God as “al-Rab” in their liturgy, but use “Allah” more frequently in their daily life.

The same is true for Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Both groups use “Allah” — although Christians pronounce it “Al-lah” and Muslims say “Al-loh,” so you can tell which religion the speaker is — but this hasn’t caused friction.

“My question is, if in other countries, ‘Allah’ as a term for God is not made exclusive, I am surprised how come the use of the term can be limited by any religion elsewhere in the world,” said Fr. Francis Lucas, president of the Catholic Media Network Corp., the broadcast arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,





Featured

babe SEXY BOLLYWOOD desi

B.C.’s Miss India Canada pageant contestant sues ex-boyfriend to pay for tuition for failed class after breakup

KAMLOOPS THIS WEEK KAMLOOPS — A 22-year-old B.C. woman is suing her ex-boyfriend to pay tuition for a class she says she failed due to distress…
Continue Reading »

Longtime Surrey politician and former mayor Bob Bose is pictured here near his south Surrey home on Monday, November 21, 2011. Jenelle Schneider/PNG

Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose backs Barinder Rasode, says no Surrey Matters slate coming

AMY REID SURREY NOW SURREY — Though Coun. Barinder Rasode has yet to officially announce her intentions to run for the city’s top job, she’s…
Continue Reading »

A Pakistani-Canadian blogger has released Pakistan's first-ever anti-homophobia children's book. Submitted photo/Nicemangos.blogspot.ca.

Toronto-based blogger releases Pakistan’s first anti-homophobia children’s book

VANCOUVER DESI A Toronto-based Pakistani blogger has written and released Pakistan’s first-ever anti-homophobia children’s book. Blogger Eiynah, known for her site Nice Mangos where she…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

babe SEXY BOLLYWOOD desi

B.C.’s Miss India Canada pageant contestant sues ex-boyfriend to pay for tuition for failed class after breakup

KAMLOOPS THIS WEEK KAMLOOPS — A 22-year-old B.C. woman is suing her ex-boyfriend to pay tuition for a class she says she failed due to distress…
Continue Reading »

Longtime Surrey politician and former mayor Bob Bose is pictured here near his south Surrey home on Monday, November 21, 2011. Jenelle Schneider/PNG

Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose backs Barinder Rasode, says no Surrey Matters slate coming

AMY REID SURREY NOW SURREY — Though Coun. Barinder Rasode has yet to officially announce her intentions to run for the city’s top job, she’s…
Continue Reading »

A Pakistani-Canadian blogger has released Pakistan's first-ever anti-homophobia children's book. Submitted photo/Nicemangos.blogspot.ca.

Toronto-based blogger releases Pakistan’s first anti-homophobia children’s book

VANCOUVER DESI A Toronto-based Pakistani blogger has written and released Pakistan’s first-ever anti-homophobia children’s book. Blogger Eiynah, known for her site Nice Mangos where she…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

jail sex

B.C. Supreme Court to decide if Kamloops Mountie watching women have sex in jail is a crime

THE CANADIAN PRESS KAMLOOPS, B.C. — A judge wants to hear arguments from lawyers about the legality of the charge against an RCMP corporal accused…
Continue Reading »

Rice Bucket India poverty

India’s Rice Bucket Challenge gives a ‘meaningful twist’ to ALS ice bucket challenge

VANCOUVER DESI India has created its own “desi” version of the ALS ice bucket challenge that has swept the globe. While the original icy cold…
Continue Reading »

India

Man proudly wears world’s largest turban weighing in at 100 pounds and 645 metres long unwrapped

VANCOUVER DESI A 60-year-old devout Sikh in northern India appears to be the proud owner of the world’s largest turban – weighing in at 100…
Continue Reading »

Elephant headed god

Gallery: India prepares to welcome elephant-headed Lord Ganesha

VANCOUVER DESI Preparations for Ganesh Chaturthi, a festival marking the birth of the elephant-headed god, have taken off in India as Hindus prepare to welcome…
Continue Reading »

Witches Burned Victim Alive In Front Of Family

Witches burn Indian dad alive in a bizarre ritual in front of his wife and 10-year-old son

CEN AGENCY Witches who burned a man alive after chopping off his arms in a bizarre ritual have been seized by police in central India….
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Newly-elected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament and Indian Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal arrives in Parliament in New Delhi on May 20, 2014. India's Narendra Modi is expected to formally declare his intention to form the next government May 20, days after his Hindu nationalist party won the first parliamentary majority in three decades. PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

No one else can play the role: Paresh Rawal on Modi biopic

IANS Mumbai  – Versatile actor Paresh Rawal, who will soon start shooting for a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, says he is the right…
Continue Reading »

hot photos desi actress bollywood sex

Gallery: Deepika Padukone photo shoot

VANCOUVER DESI Bollywood beauty Deepika Padukone, who is creating a lot of buzz with her upcoming film Finding Fanny, poses for the camera. Related Stories:…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood desi boobs sex

Bollywood’s bold babe Sherlyn Chopra strips for Playboy

VANCOUVER DESI Bollywood actress Sherlyn Chopra marks the first-ever Indian model to pose for Playboy magazine, according to eonline.com. While the 30-year-old announced she’d be…
Continue Reading »