Earlier this month, the Malaysian Court of Appeal upheld an administrative direction by the government prohibiting the Catholic Church of Malaysia from using the word \ »Allah\ » to denote \ »God\ » in the Malay version of the Church\’s newsletter, The Herald.
The government asserts that the direction, along with a condition that the newsletter was only to be circulated among members of the Catholic Church, is aimed at preserving public order. The unimpeded use of the word \ »Allah\ » by the church, it explains, will result in confusion among Muslims.
The ruling was handed down in a controversial appeal brought by the government against a lauded 2009 decision of the first court striking down the prohibition as unreasonable for, among other things, it not being reconcilable with the long history of the use of the word by Christians in Malaya (later Malaysia), and the constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion, expression and association. It was also, in the mind of the court, irrational in light of the word \ »Allah\ » being freely used to denote God in the Malay translation of the Bible.