By Catholic News Service
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNS) — The Malaysian government has won the right to continue its appeal against a court ruling that allowed non-Muslims — including a Malay-language Catholic newspaper — to use the word Allah.
In a case that has sparked nationwide debate over which religion has exclusive rights to the word Allah, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the government’s efforts to ban the use of the word in Christian publications will continue. The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10, reported ucanews.com, an Asian church news portal.
Christians argue that "Allah" is the only word for God in the Malay language.
The case dates back to a dispute over the re-registration of the publishing license, for The Herald, a national Catholic weekly, following criticism from the Home Ministry over political articles that appeared in its pages.
In 2009, the Malay edition of the Herald received an injunction to cease publication. The Herald and the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur successfully sued for the right to continue, but the government then lodged an appeal against the High Court ruling, which stated that Muslims did not have exclusive ownership of the word Allah.
The 2009 ruling spurred acts of vandalism against Christian churches and death threats against the presiding judge in the case. The same year, the government seized shipments of Malay Christian Bibles that contained the word Allah.
An agreement signed in 2011 enabled the impounded Bibles to be released, but prosecutors said that had no bearing on the Herald’s case because it did not specifically grant rights to the use of the word Allah.
In a statement to the media, Father Jestus Pereira, Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur chancellor, said: "The Catholic Church is gravely concerned by the recent statements made by individuals and organizations with regard to the use of the word ‘Allah,’ a matter which is pending at the Court of Appeal," said the statement by.
"Many of these statements are stoking racial sentiments and creating religious tension in our country," he said, urging citizens to "allow the judicial process to take its course."
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