'Allah' controversy continues

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman speaking in Moscow, on July 11, 2013, during a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia does not welcome foreign interference in or influence over the use of the word "Allah", said Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, adding that such moves stoke inter-religious strife.

He was referring to Vatican City ambassador to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Marino's reported support for the local church's campaign to use the word to refer to the Christian God, a statement condemned by pro-Malay and Muslim groups.

On Monday, Bernama quoted Mr Anifah as saying that such interference would not help in ensuring racial and religious stability and harmony. He added: "The (case of the Allah issue) is being heard at the Court of Appeal and all parties should let (it) be determined according to the rule of law."

The "Allah" controversy has exacerbated religious tension in Malaysia over the years. Most Malaysian Christians, 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 the Christian God.

However, Muslims in Malaysia say such usage insults Islam.

In 2009, a Malaysian court ruled that Christians have the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" in the Catholic newspaper The Herald. The Church filed the suit after the Home Ministry disallowed the use of the word in The Herald. The government has appealed against the verdict.

Archbishop Marino has made clear that the ongoing dispute between the local Catholic church and the Malaysian government over the use of the word "Allah" is an "internal matter".