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Malaysias top court :Alah for muslims only

Malaysia’s top court weighed in Monday on the country’s longstanding fight over the word “Allah,” saying non-Muslims cannot use it to refer to God. But the government said hours later the judgment applied only to one newspaper at the center of the case, adding still more confusion to a deeply divisive debate over religious freedom in the Muslim-majority country.

This was appealed by the Roman Catholic Church that argued that the law failed to consider the rights of minorities in the largely Muslim dominated nation.

This decision will reinforce complaints from Christians, Buddhist and Hindu minorities that non-Muslims do not always get fair treatment from the government and courts.

Allah is the Arabic word for God and commonly used in the Malay language to refer to God. The court had ruled that Catholic Church had no grounds to appeal a lower court decision last year that kept it from using Allah in its Malay-language weekly publication.

Government Stand:

  • The government says Allah should be reserved exclusively for Muslims who make up nearly two-thirds of the country’s 29 million people because if other religions use it that could confuse Muslims and lead them to convert.

Church Stand:

  • 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 percent of the population, with many living in the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island.
  • Whether freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution is real.

Implications

  • Religious tolerance is falling in Malaysia.
  • The controversy will provoked violence in Malaysia.
  •  It curtails the freedom of religion guaranteed in the constitution.

Status in other countries:

  • In Egypt, where at least 10%of the population is Christian, both Muslims and Christians refer to God as “Allah”. Christians often refer to God as “al-Rab” in their liturgy, but use “Allah” more frequently in their daily life.
  • Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, both groups use “Allah” although Christians pronounce it “Al-lah” and Muslims say “Al-loh”.

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