Sunday, January 10, 2010

:: Al Jazeera: Malaysia 'Allah' ban overturned

News Asia-Pacific

Malaysia 'Allah' ban overturned

The Roman Catholic church argued the word 'Allah' predates Islam as a term for God [Reuters]

A Malaysian court has overturned a government ban on non-Muslim publications using the word "Allah".

Ruling on a lawsuit filed by a Malaysian Roman Catholic church publication, the Kuala Lumpur High Court said on Thursday that the home ministry's ban on the use of the word "Allah" was "illegal, null and void".

Judge Lau Bee Lan said the term was not exclusive to Islam, adding that all Malaysians had the right to use the word under the constitution which guarantees freedom of expression and religion.

The Herald had filed for a judicial review after it was temporarily ordered to stop publishing in 2007 for using the word "Allah".

The government had argued that the word was exclusive to Islam and that its use by other religions could mislead Muslims and harm national security.

The church disputed this and argued that the word predates Islam as a term for God and is used in many places in a non-Muslim context.

It added that in Malaysia, the term is widely used among indigenous Christian tribes in Sabah and Sarawak.

No threat to security

The church also argued that the ban goes against the principle of freedom of religion and religious practice enshrined in the federal constitution.

Lau ruled on Thursday that the home ministry had failed to show how the Herald's use of "Allah" could threaten national security.

Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Catholic weekly, said outside the courtroom that he was "very happy" with the decision.

"We called out for justice and we got it," he said, adding: "It is a victory for all Malaysians."

Thursday's ruling could open the door for other non-Muslim publications to use the word "Allah" as a translation for the word God in Malay language publications.

Hishammuddin Hussein, the home minister, said the government would appeal against the decision.

Source: Agencies