In the Malay language “Allah” is used to mean any god, and Christians say they have used the term for centuries. Opponents of the ban say it is unconstitutional and unreasonable. It is the latest in a series of religious rows in largely Muslim Malaysia, where minority groups claim their rights are being eroded.
There has been no official government comment but parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said the decision to ban the word for non-Muslims on security grounds was “unlawful”. “The term ‘Allah’ was used to refer to God by Arabic-speaking Christians before Arabic-speaking Muslims existed,” he said.
Religious issues are highly sensitive in Malaysia, which has a 60% Muslim population. Religious freedom is guaranteed in the law but minority groups have accused the Muslim Malay majority of trying to increase the role of Islam in the country.
The BBC are reporting that a church and Christian newspaper in Malaysia are suing the government after it decreed that the word “Allah” can only be used by Muslims: