Malaysian government seeks to overthrow court reversal of Allah ban

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - The Malaysian government on Monday filed an appeal against a High Court decision to overturn a ban on the use of the word Allah, or God in Arabic, in a weekly Catholic paper. The Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled Thursday that the word Allah was not exclusive to Islam and that an existing ban by the Home Ministry was illegal and void.

The High Court also ruled that the Herald, the country's main Roman Catholic newsletter, was now permitted to use Allah to refer to God in its Malay-language articles.

Senior government lawyer Kamaluddin Mohamad Said said the appeal papers were filed Monday, adding that a notice of a stay on the implementation of the ruling would be filed Tuesday.

The decision to appeal was another instalment in a drawn-out legal battle between the Catholic church and the mainly Muslim government that began a year ago.

The ruling had also sparked small protests by Muslim groups nationwide.

Last year, the Home Ministry ruled that the word Allah was prohibited in any non-Islamic publications to avoid "confusion" among Muslims.

The ban prompted minority religious groups to argue that the Arabic word is a common term for God that predates Islam and has been used for centuries as a translation in Malay.

Malaysia's constitution declares it a secular state but with Islam as its official religion. About 60 per cent of Malaysia's 25 million people are Muslims while the rest of the population is largely made up of Buddhists, Hindus and Christians.

Christians argue that most of the country's indigenous tribes have been using the Malay Bible and referring to God as "Allah" for decades and the ban was a violation of their right to practise their religion.