Malaysian court rules use of 'Allah' exclusive to Muslims

Published: October 14, 2013
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Protesters display placards during a demonstration at the court of appeal in Putrajaya. PHOTO: AFP

Protesters display placards during a demonstration at the court of appeal in Putrajaya. PHOTO: AFP

PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA: A Malaysian court ruled on Monday that a Christian newspaper may not use the word “Allah” to refer to God, a landmark decision on an issue that has fanned religious tension and raised questions over minority right.

The unanimous decision by three Muslim judges in Malaysia’s appeals court overturned a 2009 ruling by a lower court that allowed the Malay-language version of the newspaper, The Herald, to use the word Allah – as many Christians in Malaysia say has been the case for centuries.

“The usage of the word Allah is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity,” chief judge Mohamed Apandi Ali said in the ruling. “The usage of the word will cause confusion in the community.”

The decision coincides with heightened ethnic and religious tension in Malaysia after a polarising May election, in which the long-ruling coalition was deserted by urban voters that included a large section of minority ethnic Chinese.

In recent months, Prime Minister Najib Razak has sought to consolidate his support among majority ethnic Malays, who are Muslim by law, and secure the backing of traditionalists ahead of a crucial ruling party assembly this month.

His new government – dominated by his Malay-based United Malays National Organisation – has toughened security laws and introduced steps to boost a decades-old affirmative action policy for ethnic Malays, reversing liberal reforms aimed at appealing to a broader section of the multi-ethnic country.

In its case, the government argued that the word Allah is specific to Muslims and that the then-home minister’s decision in 2008 to deny the newspaper permission to print it was justified on the basis of public order.

About 200 Muslims outside the court in the administrative capital Putrajaya, greeted the decision with shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).

“As a Muslim, defending the usage of the term Allah qualifies as jihad. It is my duty to defend it,” said Jefrizal Ahmad Jaafar, 39. Jihad is Islamic holy war or struggle.

Rights of the minority

Lawyers for the Catholic paper had argued that the word Allah predated Islam and had been used extensively by Malay-speaking Christians in Malaysia’s part of Borneo island for centuries.

They say they will appeal against Monday’s decision to Malaysia’s highest court.

“The nation must protect and support the rights of the minority,” said Father Lawrence Andrew, the founding editor of the Herald. “God is an integral part of every religion.”

Christians in Indonesia and much of the Arab world continue to use the word without opposition from Islamic authorities. Churches in the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak have said they will continue to use the word regardless of the ruling.

The paper won a judicial review of the home minister’s decision in 2009, triggering an appeal from the federal government. The court ruled on Monday that the constitutional rights of the publisher had not been infringed.

Ethnic Malays make up 60 percent of Malaysia’s 28 million people, with Chinese accounting for more than a quarter and ethnic Indians also forming a substantial minority. Christians account for about 9 percent.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • genesis
    Oct 14, 2013 - 4:43PM

    Is insahallah also forbidden.Many use this expression.

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  • Mohammad Rasool
    Oct 14, 2013 - 4:55PM

    While the rest of the world marches on to progress and scientific discoveries, legislators in Muslim countries consider it worthwhile to limit the freedom of religious minorities to practice their religions. Imagine what would happen if Muslim populations settled in the predominantly Christian countries of the world were barred from mentioning the word “God” in their discourse and conversations…..it would seem ludicrous, childish, and something even a mentally retarded person would be incapable of doing..and yet here is an instance of such happening by a 3 member panel of Malaysian judges…and then we wonder why Muslims are fast becoming laughing stocks of the world!

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  • RAW is WAR
    Oct 14, 2013 - 7:04PM

    How about Muslims be banned from using the word Jesus?

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  • Asad Khan
    Oct 14, 2013 - 7:24PM

    @Mohammad Rasool:
    …..agreed,

    I found two translation of the same Surrah (Ikhlas, 112th Chapter), one uses Allah and the other uses God.

    Muslim Scholars first needs to unite on which translation is more accurate and then passed judgement (if any) of who is allowed to use Allah and who is not….

    Say: He is Allah, the One!﴾1﴿ Allah, the eternally Besought of all!﴾2﴿ He begetteth not nor was begotten.﴾3﴿ And there is none comparable unto Him.﴾4﴿

    AND

    SAY: “HE IS God the one the most unique, 2: God the immanently indispensable. 3: He has begotten no one, and is begotten of none. 4: There is no one comparable to Him.”

    regards,

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  • Realist
    Oct 14, 2013 - 7:37PM

    @Mohammad Rasool:

    Then we would use Allah (indeed many prefer word Allah over God anyways). Christians have the word God to use anytime. Allah is an Arabic term anyways. Arabic is not native tongue of Malaysia. To say they cannot use any other word to avoid confusion does not make sense.

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  • Sameer
    Oct 14, 2013 - 7:44PM

    So now every religion must have their own Gods, each by a different and exclusive name !

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  • scotchpak
    Oct 14, 2013 - 7:56PM

    Sunni Arabian tenticles extend far!!

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  • Simple!!!!
    Oct 14, 2013 - 8:01PM

    Why would anyone use “allah” unless they are speaking Arabic?!!! I am sure there is a word for god in every language. Just use that word when speaking that language!!!!

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  • unbelievable
    Oct 14, 2013 - 8:17PM

    Ridiculous – does that mean Jesus, Moses and other words/names should be prohibited to Muslim’s because there more important to some other religions? If Muslims really want to bar a word – how about Infidel which 3/4 of the World finds highly offensive.

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  • James
    Oct 14, 2013 - 8:43PM

    Please go ahead and “copyright” the word Allah exclusively for Muslims so that Arab Christians should also refrain from using it.

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  • Khan
    Oct 14, 2013 - 9:48PM

    @unbelievable
    Emotional out burst is one think but that doesn’t mean one should mix apple with oranges. Jesus, Moses, Mohammad etc were/are Prophets or Messengers of Allah SWT. When from centuries they call Jesus as Jesus, Rama as Rama than what’s their problem now to insist calling them Allah. In south east Asia especially Christians n some Hindu’s use word Allah purposely just to create confusion. So it’s not Muslims who started or creating any rift, it’s Christians n Hindu’s – what’s their aim if you have any intelligence should not be difficult to grasp.

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  • babloo
    Oct 14, 2013 - 10:05PM

    I agree. The use of the wored “Allah” , by non-muslims , should be banned in all non-muslim countries. India too should ban the use of the word.

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  • Oct 14, 2013 - 10:18PM

    Despite the progress and wealth, Malaysia and Indonesia are gradually getting worse in terms of religious intolerance, communalism, sectarianism and extremism, almost mirroring Pakistan, on top of their ethnic bigotry.

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  • Oct 14, 2013 - 11:28PM

    As Muslims we regard Allah as the original name of God – a name that was and is still used throughout the Middle East by non-Muslims to describe Allah/God/Creator – this ruling actually makes a mockery of Islamic teaching and regards Allah/God/Creator as a thing to own – no one even Muslims have authority of who should or should not use the name Allah.

    These so-called Muslims need to grow up, mature and think clearly.

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  • Gingo
    Oct 15, 2013 - 12:55AM

    If non muslims cannot say ‘Allah’ then how will now malay molvis expect them to convert to Islam? Because the word ‘Allah’ is the last word of the Kalima Tayyaba as well?

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  • Humanity
    Oct 15, 2013 - 1:11AM

    So Muslims are telling the world they don’t believe God is one. Allah the Creator and Master of all.

    They are def, dumb, and blind and they know it not. Jackasses!

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  • Rahim
    Oct 15, 2013 - 3:23AM

    Lame decision. I would rather consider it as Shirk, is my Allah any different from God of Christians??? He is One and Only CREATOR of the whole universe and beyond!
    Calling him with different name is a human adoption, also Rab-ul-Alameen is not proprietary to Muslims only!!!!

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  • Rahim
    Oct 15, 2013 - 5:04AM

    @ Khan, confusion? What kind of confusion dude? What’s the difference if Hindus or Christian call Almighty, Allah?? Give me a break man!
    Oh by the way, what right did you used to call Rama, Rama? You should call him with some other name as Hindus in this forum would mind…!!!

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  • csmann
    Oct 15, 2013 - 5:19AM

    Defeats the purpose of the term “laa-ilahu-l-Allah”.Looks like man is starting to consider himself above God,and telling Him you are not the creator of all mankind.This amounts to foregoing one of the basic tenet of Islam.

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  • Toba Alu
    Oct 15, 2013 - 7:49AM

    Such ludicrous discussions can only happen if you are from a different planet.The flock is confused and they behave more and more like sheep. Only when the laughing stock becomes the loving stock things may change for the better. It isn’t going to happen in my lifetime.

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  • Insaan
    Oct 15, 2013 - 8:43AM

    Does that mean any non-Muslim using word “Allah” will be arrested and punished in Malaysia?

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  • khan
    Oct 15, 2013 - 9:15AM

    @csmann
    Let me help you to read n write properly: “LA ILAHA ILLALLAH, MUHAMMADUR-RASULULLAH”; Meaning: “There is no God but ALLAH, Muhammad is the messenger of ALLAH”; I will pray forgiveness for your measurable body/soul.

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  • T R Khan
    Oct 15, 2013 - 9:58AM

    Allah says He is Rab Ul Alameen and not Rab ul Muslameen. Therefore all have the right to call Him “Allah”.

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  • Oct 15, 2013 - 4:04PM

    Muslims are retards it’s fairly clear for all of us. They are backwards and behave like imbeciles.

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  • Udaya Bose
    Oct 15, 2013 - 5:45PM

    This is a sad case of the syncretic culture of Malaysia going the Wahabi way.

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  • mind control
    Oct 15, 2013 - 7:04PM

    “This award should be given to the real Muslims who are struggling for Islam. Malala is against Islam, she is secular,” he had gone on to say.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/617556/malala-is-a-drama-staged-by-the-us-jamshed-dasti/

    Jamshed Dasti nominates Malaysian High Court for Nobel Peace Prize.

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  • mind control
    Oct 15, 2013 - 7:13PM

    OK.

    It is official now.

    The Muslims own,

    A. The Universe- Remember the ‘sovereignty’ bit of the Pakistani Constitution?

    B. Paradise- Only the ‘faithful’ will enter Jannah.

    C. God Almighty Himself- The Malaysian Court has spoken.

    By the way, Pakistanis have declared the same in the case of Ahmadis a long long time ago.

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  • jani
    Oct 15, 2013 - 10:45PM

    @Mohammad Rasool:
    which rest of the world are you talking about is it same rest of world which banned muslim women to wear hijaab? not allow azan no minaretes?

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  • jani
    Oct 15, 2013 - 10:52PM

    The whole point of this judgement by honourable court is to stop people deceiving other muslims by using Word Allah and thats it in my opinion.

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  • Crazy Canuck
    Oct 15, 2013 - 11:28PM

    Classic example of religion being a divider and not a uniter of mankind (which supposedly is all created by the same diety). Making way for intolerance and bigotry. Those who throw the book on the critics need to remind themselves that they are not the ones to judge.

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  • Pradhan
    Oct 16, 2013 - 3:26AM

    These guys are just psycho. How can you ask someone not to use a particular word??

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  • Rafi Ka Deewana
    Oct 16, 2013 - 7:12AM

    One Muslim country at a time is going backward. Years ago, it was Pakistan’s turn, now it is the turn of progressive countries like Turkey and Malaysia. You can draw a time line and see how in 10 – 15 years, all the Muslim countries will go back to the 10th century.

    I applaud Bangladesh in this regard (but things may change there too once the other parties take over).

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  • Observer
    Oct 16, 2013 - 10:29AM

    A very good example of religious dogmatism and extremism.

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  • Observer
    Oct 16, 2013 - 10:59AM

    A very good example of religious dogmatism and extremism. Next they will want to prohibit non-muslims from even thinking about Allah or having dreams about him, in other words they even want to control the minds of others!

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  • Rakib
    Oct 16, 2013 - 11:04AM

    @Khan:
    What confusion can a Hindu cause by using the word Allah conversationally, metaphorically & idiomatically or if he is a follower of some Sufi saint even worshipfully? Such a Saint is a mere addition to the pantheon. Fact is, it is next to impossible to be converted to traditional Hinduism & nobody gets lured by misuse of any holy name. Only body that invites non-Hindus to Hinduism is a group of very limited influence named Arya Samaj & it would never utter name of god of another religion for worship. However, many Bhagat-Poets that followed path of Bhakti (devotion) sang of god being one & called by many names such as Ishwar, Allah & so on. Hardly an incentive for marketing conversion. In India Christians use the words Parampita (supreme father), Ishwar or Khuda while sermonising in local languages, never Allah or Bhagwan/Raam. Practice in Malaysia appears to be different.

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