Saturday, 2 January 2010

Never Ending Issue: Malaysian Muslim activists oppose 'Allah' ruling

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 1/2/2010 Malaysian Muslim activists oppose 'Allah' ruling

Muslim groups in Malaysia have voiced opposition to a court ruling allowing a Catholic paper the right to use the word "Allah", and said Saturday they plan to demonstrate.

Muslim groups in Malaysia have voiced opposition to a court ruling allowing a Catholic paper the right to use the word "Allah", and said Saturday they plan to demonstrate.

Malaysia's high court ruled Thursday that the Herald weekly had the right to use the word "Allah" after a long-running dispute between the government and the paper in the Muslim-majority nation.

The Herald has been using the word "Allah" as a translation for "God" in its Malay-language section, but the government argued "Allah" should be used only by Muslims.

The court ruled the Catholic paper had the "constitutional right" to use the word 'Allah', declaring the government's ban on the word "illegal, null and void". Government lawyers have not yet decided whether to appeal.

Muslim groups have opposed the ruling.

"The court decision is not right and we are planning to hold a major demonstration to protest this," Syed Hassan Syed Ali, secretary general of Malay rights group Pribumi Perkasa told AFP.

He and 50 other Malay activists held a small protest over the ruling outside a central mosque Friday.

"We fear that the court victory will mean that Christian missionaries will now use the word, confusing (the identity of) Muslims and undermining religious harmony," he said.

Federation of Malay Students' Association advisor Reezal Merican said although the court decision had to be respected, the government needed to appeal it.

"We want to live in peace with all religions here but the word Allah has traditionally in Malaysia been used to represent the Muslim God, which is different from Christianity, and this must be addressed," he told AFP.

Northern Perak state mufti Harussani Zakaria was also critical of the verdict, calling it "an insult to Muslims in this country," according to the influential Malay-language Utusan Malaysia newspaper.

The Herald is printed in four languages, with a circulation of 14,000 copies a week in a country with about 850,000 Catholics.

The court case was among a string of religious disputes that have erupted in recent years, straining relations between Muslim Malays and minority ethnic Chinese and Indians who fear the country is being "Islamised".

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Friday, 1 January 2010

Again: Malaysia court rules Catholic paper has right to use 'Allah'

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 12/31/2009Malaysia court rules Catholic paper has right to use 'Allah'

Malaysia's high court ruled Thursday that a Catholic paper had the right to use the word "Allah" after a long-running dispute between the government and the weekly in the Muslim-majority nation.

The ruling overturns the government's controversial threat to cancel The Herald's annual publishing permit.

"The applicant has the constitutional right to use the word 'Allah'," Judge Lau Bee Lan told a packed courtroom, declaring the government's ban on the paper's use of the word "illegal, null and void".

The weekly used the word "Allah" as a translation for "God" in its Malay-language section but the government argued "Allah" should be used only by Muslims.

Lau said the home ministry, which licenses all newspapers in the country, had taken into account "irrelevant considerations" when making the paper's publishing permit conditional on it not using the word.

She said it had shown no evidence that the use of the word by Christians was "a threat to national security".

The Herald's editor, Father Lawrence Andrew, said he was pleased with the decision and the paper would use the word 'Allah' in its upcoming Sunday edition.

"This also means that... the Christian faith can now continue to freely use the word 'Allah'... without any interference from the authorities," he added.

Government lawyers have not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling.

The Herald is printed in four languages, with a circulation of 14,000 copies a week in a country with about 850,000 Catholics.

The court case was among a string of religious disputes that have erupted in recent years, straining relations between Muslim Malays and minority ethnic Chinese and Indians who fear the country is being "Islamised".

Religion and language are sensitive issues in multiracial Malaysia, which experienced deadly race riots in 1969.

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