Malaysia: A Malaysian court ruled Wednesday that non-Muslims can use the word “Allah” to refer to God, in a major decision in a divisive issue for religious freedom in the country.
The High Court decision squashed a 35-year-old government ban on the usage of Allah and three other Arabic words by Christian publications, deeming the ban unconstitutional, said the plaintiff’s lawyer, Annou Xavier.
The government has previously said Allah should be reserved exclusively for Muslims to avoid confusion that could lead them to convert to other religions, a stance that is unique to Malaysia and hasn’t been an issue in other Muslim-majority nations with Christian minorities.
Christian leaders in Malaysia say the ban is unreasonable because Christians who speak the Malay language have long used Allah, a Malay word derived from Arabic, in their Bibles, prayers and songs.
The high court ruling appeared to contradict an earlier decision by the country’s Federal Court in 2014 that upheld the government ban following a legal challenge by the Roman Catholic Church, which had used the word Allah in its Malay-language newsletter.