Three Muslim judges in Malaysia overturned a four year-old ruling Monday, finding that only Muslims have access to the word “Allah.”
Under the unanimous ruling, Christian newspapers doing business in Malaysia cannot refer to a deity named “Allah.”
Catholic newspaper The Herald, which prints a Malay language edition, had successfully appealed a 2008 order that prohibited it from using the word “Allah.” But the ruling of that lower court decision was overturned Monday by a higher appeals court, amid a political climate that has seen Prime Minister Najib Razak court the favor of the country’s Muslim majority population by reversing earlier liberal reforms.
From The Jerusalem Post, which reported the story:
The usage of the word Allah is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity,” chief judge Mohamed Apandi Ali said in the ruling. “The usage of the word will cause confusion in the community.”
…In its case, the government argued that the word Allah is specific to Muslims and that the then-home minister’s decision in 2008 to deny the newspaper permission to print it was justified on the basis of public order.
The newspaper had argued not that it had a fundamental right to free speech in Malaysia, but rather that “Allah” is a word that existed before the advent of Islam itself, and that it has had cultural currency among native Malay speakers for hundreds of years.
The newspaper has pledged to appeal the ruling to the country’s highest court.