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M'sian court defers decision on 'Allah' case

Publication Date : 05-03-2014


Malaysia's apex court on Wednesday said it will decide at a later date whether to allow an application by the Catholic church to challenge a lower court's decision on the sensitive Allah issue, in a case that has stoked tensions between local Muslims and Christians.

Some of the hundreds of Muslims who had gathered outside the court complex became agitated and tried to barge in, but was stopped by the police.

A seven-judge Bench of the Federal Court earlier heard submissions from the church on why it should be given permission to appeal. This followed a ruling by the Court of Appeal last October that the church's newsletter Herald could not use the word "Allah" in refering to God.

The Federal Court had on Wednesday also heard submissions by the Malaysian government and Islamic councils from six states which wanted to stop the church's application.

The case hinges on whether the church can convince the apex court that the case is important enough to be examined by the Federal Court.

"We are satisfied that we meet the test that this case is of sufficient public importance," lead counsel Cyrus Das told The Straits Times after the proceedings ended on Wednesday.

The case has been at the centre of rising tensions between Malaysian Muslims and Christians which has worsened after the appeals court overturned a 2009 ruling by the High Court allowing the church use of the contested word.

The church say it should be allowed to use the word in the Malay section of its Herald weekly if restricted to its churches. It said it has done so for 14 years prior to an order by the home ministry barring it from doing on public order and security reasons.

It also says that the ban on the use of Allah to mean God in Christianity affects 1.6 million Malay-speaking Christians particularly in Sabah and Sarawak.

The respondents led by the Malaysian government, six state Islamic councils and a Chinese Muslim association argue that the home minister is empowered with overarching information to decide on matters affecting public security.

They also say the word Allah was not integral to Christian worship.


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