Malaysian court rules Christians can use 'Allah'

Kyodo News

Posted at Mar 10 2021 09:29 PM

A Christian Malaysian woman won a legal battle Wednesday for her right to use the word "Allah" that the Malaysian government has said only Muslims can use, in a landmark ruling in the country.

Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Nor Bee Ariffin ruled in favor of the claim of the woman, maintaining that the government ban that prohibits the use of the word by non-Muslims in Malaysian language publications is "unconstitutional" and "illegal."

Jill Ireland, the Christian from Sarawak state on the island of Borneo, began her struggle for the right in 2008 when customs officers at Kuala Lumpur airport seized eight of her CDs that she brought into the country from Indonesia because the titles contained the Arabic word "Allah."

A directive of the Home Ministry in 1986 prohibits the use of the words "Allah" by non-Muslims in any of their Malaysian language publications. The government asserted that the use of the word by non-Muslims could cause "confusion" among Muslims.

One of Ireland's lawyers, Annou Xavier, told Kyodo News the judge ruled it was her constitutional right to import any publications "without any discrimination to protect her right of education and to practice her religious belief."

The case of Ireland is one of several legal disputes between Christians in Malaysia and the Muslim-dominated government over the use of the word. The controversy has strained ties between the Muslims who make up over 60 percent of the country's 32 million population and the Christians who make up about 9.2 percent.

Many Christians in the country have used "Allah" for centuries when they worship in the Malaysian language or their native languages.

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