Malaysians protest over church’s use of ‘Allah’

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Hundreds of Muslims today tried to storm the Justice Ministry building in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, a day after the Malaysia’s highest court postponed a decision on whether to hear the Catholic church’s bid to be allowed to use the Arabic word “Allah”.

The church is seeking to challenge a lower court’s ruling last year that forbids non-Muslims from using the Arabic “Allah” in the local Malay language to describe God.

The Federal Court has set up a seven-man panel for the first time to hear the civil dispute over the use of the word ‘Allah’ by Catholic weekly Herald in its Bahasa Malaysia edition.

The panel yesterday delayed its decision on whether to allow a full hearing of the case, or whether the lower court’s verdict stands. It gave no date for the decision after hearing arguments from both sides.

In 2009, the Catholic Church filed a judicial review application against the Home Ministry and the government. It sought a declaration that the Ministry’s decision to prohibit the publication from using the word ‘Allah’ was illegal.

In December 2009, the High Court ruled that it was constitutional for the Herald to use the word ‘Allah’ in its articles and allowed its application to quash the Home Ministry decision.

In 2013, a three-man Court of Appeal bench reversed the high court ruling.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the use of ‘Allah’ was not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity.

Abdul Rahman Mat Dali, the deputy president of a local NGO Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia, said he did not condone the actions of the crowd but understood their anger.

Earlier, Human Rights lawyer Siti Kassim and several others turned up at ministry handing out flowers to those present.

“The way we are going is very worrying and peace-loving Malaysians should speak up,” she said.