Malaysia Allows Newspaper to Refer to Christian God as 'Allah'

The government of Malaysia has reversed a decision to ban a Christian newspaper from using the word "Allah" to refer to God.

Earlier, the government had threatened to refuse to give the Weekly Herald a newspaper publishing permit if it continued to use the word "Allah," saying only Muslims could use it.

"The word 'Allah' had long been used by Christians to refer to God in the Malay language," argued the Rev. Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the paper, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.

"And we are of the view that we have the right to use the word 'Allah'."

Not long after the Weekly Herald filed a lawsuit against the Malaysian government at the beginning of December, the government back-tracked.

In a fax to the Herald's editor, the government said the newspaper will get its 2008 permit with no conditions attached, according to BBC.

Upon hearing the latest development, Lawrence said, "I am delighted, our prayers had been answered."

The editor blamed politics and a general election expected there in 2008 year for what he said were the actions of a few over-zealous ministers in the Muslim-dominated Malay government.

The Herald is the newspaper of the Catholic Church in Malaysia with a circulation of around 12,000. It publishes in four different languages.

Meanwhile, there is no update on the battle being waged by the Sabah Evangelical Church of Borneo, which also initiated legal proceedings after it was banned from importing Christian books with the word "Allah" in it.

Jerry Dusing, pastor of Sabah Evangelical Church of Borneo said that the word "Allah" had been used for generations by Malay speakers at Sabah and noted that it 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.

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