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Top Malaysian Court Rules 'Allah' Only for Muslims

A Muslim man stands outside the court in Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur, June 23, 2014.
A Muslim man stands outside the court in Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur, June 23, 2014.
Malaysia's highest court has upheld a government ban against a Roman Catholic newspaper using the word "Allah" to refer to God.

The Federal Court ruled in a four-to-three decision Monday that the church's Malay-language newspaper, The Herald, had no grounds to appeal a lower court decision last year that Allah should be reserved exclusively for Muslims, because if other religions use the word, it could be confusing and lead Muslims to convert.

Such conversion is illegal in Malaysia, where more than 60 percent of the population of 30 million are Muslim - the country's official religion. Just over 9 percent are Christian.

Monday's ruling ends a dispute that has been ongoing since 2007, when Malaysia's Home Ministry threatened to revoke the publishing permit of The Herald for using the Arabic word in its Malay-language edition.

The editor of the newspaper, Reverend Lawrence Andrew, said he is "disappointed" by the decision, and said the four judges who voted against the appeal "did not touch on fundamental basic rights of minorities."

Christian groups argue that they have used the word Allah to refer to God in their Bibles and songs for many years - long before authorities began enforcing the ban several years ago.
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