Malaysian High Court has abolished the policy of banning Christians from saying the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God in a decades-long legal battle.
It comes as part of a case brought by a Christian whose religious materials were seized as they contained the word. The issue of non-Muslims using “Allah” has in the past sparked tension and violence in Malaysia.
The Christian communities argue that the word ‘Allah’ comes from Malay language from Arabic and has been used by Christians to refer to God for centuries and that the ruling violates their rights.
Muslims comprise two third of the total population in Malaysia however there is a large Christian population living in the country.
Although Malaysian government allows religious freedom but in recent years religious tensions have emerged.
In 2008, Malaysian authorities seized Malay-language compact discs from Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, a Christian, at an airport after they found the recordings used “Allah” in their titles.
Ms Bill then launched a legal challenge against a 1986 ban on Christians using the word in publications.
On Wednesday – after more than a decade – the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that she had the right not to face discrimination on the ground of her faith.
In her decision, Justice Nor Bee ruled that the word “Allah” – along with three other words of Arabic origin “Kaabah” (Islam’s holiest shrine in Mecca), “Baitullah (House of God) and “Solat” (prayer) – could be used by Christians.
Justice Nor Bee said the directive that banned the use of the four words was “illegal and unconstitutional”.
“The freedom to profess and practice one’s religion should include the right to own religious materials,” she said.