In Malaysia, a country of 30 million people that is 60 percent Muslim, the courts agreed “Allah” in the Herald newspaper would confuse Muslim Malays and promote the Christian faith among them. In a country only 58 years old, where the word, which predates Islam, has been used by Christians for hundreds of years, the courts decided “Allah” belongs to Muslims only. As of Jan. 21, Rev. Lawrence Andrew no longer can call God by the name “Allah” in his Catholic weekly newspaper, the Herald.
Andrew endured death threats, graffiti was smeared outside churches, and protesters burned Bibles and Andrew’s effigy. A bodyguard was assigned to shadow the 70-year-old Jesuit priest.
“I just had to compose myself and carry on,” he said.
The priest and his lawyers are arguing that the ruling on the Allah term applies to the Herald only.
“I brought this case. It only applies to the Herald,” Andrew said. He refuses to heed attempts by Islamic religious groups seeking to extend the ruling to cover all aspects of Christian worship in the Malay language.
Church leaders say they take some comfort in the Government’s declaration that the decision of the Court of Appeal is confined to the Herald’s case.
“But this support is verbal; it has no legal value, and so can change at any time. For now, though, it has bought us a bit of freedom.”
“We can cope with it. We will continue publishing the Herald without using the word Allah,” the unassuming priest told World Watch Monitor.