October 16, 2013
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia – An appeals panel ruled Monday (October 14th) that a Malaysian Catholic newspaper could not use "Allah" to refer to the Christian God, in a case that sparked attacks on places of worship three years ago, AFP reported.
The publishers of the Herald said after the ruling they planned to appeal to the higher Federal Court.
"It is our judgment that there is no infringement of any of the constitutional rights," said Apandi Ali, head of the three-judge panel.
The dispute erupted in early 2009 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Herald's publishing permit for using the word, saying it could cause religious strife.
The Catholic Church sued, claiming violation of its constitutional rights. A court upheld the church's argument later that year and lifted the ban pending judicial review.
The ban's removal triggered a series of attacks on places of worship in early 2010, mostly churches, using Molotov cocktails, rocks and paint, and sparked fears of wider religious conflict in the multi-faith country.
Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew said Monday's ruling was flawed, noting that "Allah" has been used extensively in Malay-language versions of the Bible for decades without trouble.
About 150 Muslims, led by right-wing Malay Muslim rights group Perkasa, gathered outside the court on Monday, holding banners that read "Allah just for Muslim, fight, no fear" in a noisy protest followed by prayers.