Christians Fight for Right to Use Word 'Allah' for God; Malaysia Court Set to Give Ruling

Malaysia's Catholic Church will argue that Christians should be able to use the word "Allah" when referring to their God in print in the Court of Appeals on Thursday. The Church is currently locked in a battle with authorities, who believe that Muslims should have exclusive rights to the name.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Church will be asking the Court of Appeal to dismiss the government's appeal of the Church's previous victory; though it seems likely that the case will be decided by the Federal Court, the country's highest.

According to the government, "Allah" is a sacred term. However, the Church highlights the fact that "Allah" has historically been used by Christians and furthermore, is the only proper translation for God in the Malay language.

Much of the argument has come to a head as a the Herald, a Catholic newspaper that reaches 100,000 Malaysians weekly, has used "Allah" in its publication for years, despite government warnings as far back as 1998. After the newspaper refused to stop using the name, the government banned all publications from using Allah and the Church filed a lawsuit.

Over 60 percent of Malaysia's population is Muslim, while close to 10 percent of the population is Christian, 1 million of whom identify as Catholic.

The case has raised tensions between various Muslim and Christian groups in the country, and although most Christians and Muslims in the country have been able to live alongside one another peacefully, in the aftermath of the court's initial ruling in favor of the Catholic Church, confrontations have turned more violent. In 2009 when a court first ruled that the Catholic Church constitutionally could use "Allah" 10 churches were vandalized in subsequent weeks and a church office was burned.