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Court rejects appeal over use of Allah for God

KUALA LUMPUR (SE): Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam was warned that massive demonstrations would face him as he turned up to the Court of Appeals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 22 to defend the right of the Catholic Church to continue its 300-year practice of using the word Allah to refer to God in some languages in common use in the country.

The Church is arguing that the word for God is not the property of the Islamic faith, but simply a Middle Eastern word that has been in common use to refer to the deity for centuries.

The August 20 issue of The Malay Mail quoted the secretary-general of Perkasa, Syed Hassan Syed Ali, as saying that the planned rally was in support of the Home Ministry in its efforts to prohibit non-Muslims from referring to God as Allah in printed material.

“The Court of Appeal’s decision in this case is very important to Muslims,” Syed Hassan said in a statement emailed to The Malay Mail Online.

“Perkasa also calls on other Muslims to join us at Putrajaya in great numbers this Thursday (August 22) morning. Show our support towards efforts in defending the word Allah from being used and misused by other religious believers,” he added.

Perkasa has some 407,000 members throughout Malaysia, the acting president of the group, Datuk Abd Rahman Abu Bakar, said.

The High Court of Malaysia ruled that the Church could continue its practice of using the word Allah for God in some languages, but the government has appealed against the ruling.

The archbishop of Kuala Lumpur filed an application during July to have the government appeal rescinded. It was followed by a string of attacks on Catholic Churches and communities.

However, a three-judge panel overturned the request to have the government appeal dismissed and instead said that the court would hear the appeal. The next session has been set for September 10.

Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of Catholic newspaper, the Herald, told The Malay Mail Online that the appeal needed to be struck out because of a 10-point solution to the problem offered by the prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in 2011.

Najib assured Malaysia’s Christian population that it was free to bring their Malay bibles into the country and use them, as well as in other indigenous languages that contained the word Allah, after shipments of the holy book were banned.

Deep-running anger over the issue was again exposed last month when extremist Islamist groups railed against remarks by the Vatican first ever envoy to Malaysia, Archbishop Joseph Marino, on the controversy.

Archbishop Marino had described local Church arguments as logical and acceptable.

He later apologised for the remarks and denied he was meddling in the matter.

The row erupted in 2008 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Herald newspaper’s permit because it made reference to God as Allah.

The 2009 High Court decision upholding the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to use the word Allah shocked many Muslims who consider it to be an Islamic word.

UCA News reported the chancellor of Kuala Lumpur archdiocese, Father Jestus Pereira, as saying, “The Catholic Church is gravely concerned by the recent statements made by individuals and organisations with regard to the use of the word Allah, a matter which is pending at the Court of Appeal.”


He added, “Many of these statements are stoking racial sentiments and creating religious tension in our country.”

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