Kuala Lumpur, Jan 21: Malaysia's highest court rejected a final bid by the country's Catholic newspaper for the right to use the word "Allah" to refer to the Christian God, in a case that has aggravated religious tensions.
The Federal Court, Malaysia's highest, had ended a seven-year legal battle last June by rejecting a final appeal by The Herald weekly. The newspaper subsequently launched an attempt to have the court undertake a rare review of last year's decision, but the Federal Court dismissed the move today.
Christians have pointed to the "Allah" controversy as indicative of shrinking tolerance for minority faiths in Muslim-majority Malaysia. "This is only the beginning," said Father Lawrence Andrew, the newspaper's editor, who has led the Church's fight.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they come along and say 'don't use it (Allah) in your services.'" The decision only affects The Herald, not church services or bibles distributed in the country, where Malay-speaking Christians say they have used the Arabic word "Allah" to refer to their god for centuries.
The newspaper has not used the word since Malaysia's Muslim-controlled government first banned it from doing so in 2007, setting off the legal wrangling. The word was only used in the newspaper's Malay-language sub-section.