Church urges calm ahead of KL court ruling on 'Allah' usage

KUALA LUMPUR - The Catholic Church has called on all parties to respect the judicial process, and also urged the government to take steps to prevent "untoward incidents" ahead of a Court of Appeal ruling on Thursday on the church's use of the word "Allah".

The Church's newspaper in Malaysia, the Herald, has applied for a ban on using "Allah" as a Malay-language translation for God to be overturned.

Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, said he had told Catholics who offered to turn up in court to give support to "stay back where you are and pray".

"This was about the weekly using the word 'Allah', it is not about Allah per se, but it has snowballed into something else now. We want politics out of this," he told The Malaysian Insider.

Malay rights group Perkasa has called on Muslims to join it in great numbers at Putrajaya in support of the government's ban on the Herald's use of the word, the Malaysian Insider said.

The "Allah" controversy has exacerbated religious tension in Malaysia over the years.

Most Christians in Malaysia, who make up 10 per cent of the population, live in Sabah and Sarawak. They read the Bible in Malay and it sometimes uses the word "Allah" to describe God.

However, Muslims in Malaysia say such usage insults Islam.

In January 2008, the Home Ministry approved the Herald's publication permit, on condition that the usage of the word "Allah" was prohibited and the word "Limited" be endorsed on its front page to mean that it must be circulated only to Christians.

Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, as the Herald's publisher, filed an application the following month to find the decision illegal and to say that the word is not exclusive to Islam.

In December 2009, the High Court allowed the Church's application and lifted the Home Minister's ban, declaring it illegal.

But the ruling sparked attacks against several churches across the country and the government appealed against it.

The Church then filed an application to strike out the appeal.

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