A minister from the Malaysian government said Friday that the word "Allah" can only be used by Muslims despite a recent government decision that sided with a local Christian newspaper.
Speaking to reporters, Abdullah Zin, the de-facto minister for Islamic affairs, said "Allah" refers to the Muslim god and that it can only be used by Muslims given the sensitivity that may arise.
"The use of the word 'Allah' by other religions may arouse sensitivity and create confusion among Muslims," he told the local Star newspaper Friday.
Last month, the weekly newspaper of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, The Herald, filed a lawsuit against the government after it threatened to revoke the newspaper's publishing permit if it did not cease use of the word "Allah" in the Malay language section of its newspaper.
Not long after the Herald filed its suit, the government back-tracked, stating in a fax to the Herald's editor that the newspaper will get its 2008 permit with no conditions attached, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.
Amid the latest pressure to drop the word from the newspaper, Herald editor Fr. Lawrence Andrew has remained defiant against the government.
Andrew told the Agence France Presse that the paper would still pursue its lawsuit to lift the state order banning the use of "Allah" by non-Muslims.
"The word 'Allah' had long been used by Christians to refer to God in the Malay language," Andrew has argued, according to the BBC.
"And we are of the view that we have the right to use the word 'Allah'."
Jerry Dusing, pastor of Sabah Evangelical Church of Borneo, which has also filed suit against the government, has noted that the word "Allah" has been used for generations by Malay speakers and is used in the Malay Bible.
"The Christian usage of 'Allah' predates Islam. 'Allah' is the name of God in the old Arabic Bible as well as in the modern Arabic Bible," he said, according to the Associated Press.
Dusing also noted that the word "Allah" is commonly used by Christians in countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Indonesia.
Malaysia, a country of around 25 million, is around 60 percent Muslim, 19 percent Buddhist, 9 percent Christian and 6 percent Hindu.
Although the constitution of the country officially allows freedom of religion, minority groups have often accused the Muslim Malay majority of trying to increase the role of Islam in the country.