The Christian community remains adamant that the use of ‘Allah’ is their right, despite a ruling by the Court of Appeal last October that ‘Allah’ was exclusive to Malay Muslims. The word predates the birth of Islam, and the ruling has been widely criticized by many other Muslim nations, and by the United Nations. About 64% of Malaysia’s Christians come from the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak, where the term has been part of their vocabulary for more than 100 years. In this language, the term for God by both Christians and Muslims has been ‘Allah’. The indigenous populations of the two states, whose primary language is Bahasa Malay, claim the usage is their constitutional and spiritual right. The Malay Bible dates back to the 16th century and, as the government phases out English in favor of Bahasa Malay, more and more Christians observe their faith in Bahasa Malay. The ‘Allah’ controversy began in 2007 when the government banned The Herald, a Catholic weekly newspaper, from using the word. The Catholic church contested the order, and the High Court restored its constitutional right in 2009. The government appealed that decision, and in October 2013, a three-man Court of Appeal ruled that Malay Muslims had an exclusive copyright to the word ‘Allah’. Legal experts say the court’s decision is flawed, and that its ruling, if ratified, should only apply to The Herald and not to other Christian literature, such as the Alkitab, or in liturgy. *Names, photographs and other information have been changed for security purposes Share This Story
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