Malaysia’s highest court rejected a proposal by the Catholic Church to use the word Allah in the Bible, on June 23rd, bringing an end to a long legal battle that have led to religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in the country. While minority religious groups continue to fear further Islamization of Malaysia, the church challenged a previous government ban that prohibited the use of the Arabic word Allah to refer to God in the Bible. A seven-judge panel in Putrajaya ruled on Monday that a lower court’s decision in favour of the government would continue to stand.
“It [the Court of Appeal] applied the correct test, and it is not open for us to interfere,” chief justice Arifin Zakaria said.
S. Selvarajah, lawyer for the church, said his team would find other ways to challenge the ban.
“It's a blanket ban. Non-Muslims cannot use the word. It has a major impact,” he said.
Outside the court that had been cordoned off for the day, approximately 100 Muslim activists celebrated the ruling, shouting Allahu Akbar, which means God is great, and holding placards that said, “Uniting to defend the name of Allah.”
“I'm very pleased and happy that we have won the case. I hope the issue will be put to rest… We must defend 'Allah' because this is our religious obligation. I hope other communities, including Christians, understand this,” said Ibrahim Ali, head of Perkasa, a Muslim rights group.
In response to the court’s verdict, Chief Minister of Sarawak State, Adenan Satem, said other Malaysians need to learn from Sarawakians who have been living in peace and harmony for decades without quarreling over petty religious matters.
“I will not permit such a law in Sarawak as long as I am the chief minister,” he said.
Adenan is of the opinion that every human is a child of God, irrespective of race and religion. According to him, Allah and Tuhan refer to the same God and there is absolutely no difference between people of two different communities.
“God created us differently, but at the same time we are the same because we believe in the colourful garden. It will be very dull if all the colours were all white,” said Adenan while calling on Malaysians to respect each other’s religions, ideas and differences.
He also said that as the Chief Minister, he would ensure all individuals could practice their own religions without any hindrance.
“Whether it is mosques, churches, or temples, I will give some grant. I will never distinguish between them… I cannot give all that you ask for, but have no doubt that I will never distinguish between mosques, or churches, or temples… That is the way it ought to be. You are at liberty to practise your religion in your own way,” he said.
Photo Credit: AFP