Malaysian court lifts ban on use of Allah for Catholic paper

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Malaysia's High Court on Thursday handed down a landmark ruling by overturning a government ban on the use of the word Allah, or God in Arabic, in a weekly Catholic paper. The High Court in the capital Kuala Lumpur ruled that the word Allah was not exclusive to Islam, and that an existing ban by the Home Ministry was illegal and void.

The court ruled that the Herald newspaper was now permitted to use Allah to refer to God in its Malay-language articles.

Thursday's court decision put to rest a year-long legal battle between the Catholic church and the mainly Muslim government, which ruled that the word Allah was prohibited in any non-Islamic publications in order to avoid "confusion" among Muslims.

The government's ban on the use of the word in the Herald, the country's main Roman Catholic newsletter, 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.