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2014-06-23

ASIA/MALAYSIA – Confirmed: Christians are banned to use the name "Allah": for the Bishops "judges are not impartial"

Kuala Lumpur (Agenzia Fides) - The Federal Court of Malaysia has confirmed the ban imposed on the Catholic weekly "Herald" to use the term "Allah" in its publications to refer to God. Thus the third degree of judgment comes to an end, a happening which for years has stirred the nation. The Supreme Court has in fact rejected the appeal filed by the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, on behalf of the Catholic weekly. The legal battle - which also took on a symbolic meaning on the rights of minorities and exploited, has stirred religious tensions – it started in 2009, with an appeal filed by the Herald, after the ban imposed on it by an order of the Ministry of the Interior. In the first instance, at the end of 2009, Catholics had won the case. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment instead in October 2013. Now the Federal Court, through a panel of seven judges rejected a final recourse, by a vote of 4 to 3.
As Fides learns, the lawyers of the Catholic Church will consider the possibility to ask for a review of the judgment. Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the weekly "Herald", said he was "disappointed and sorry for a verdict that violates the fundamental rights of minorities".
Reached by Fides Agency, His Exc. Mgr. Paul Tan, Bishop of Malacca-Johor and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, said laconically: "The judges were not impartial". But points out: "The decision relates exclusively to the Herald. So this does not mean that other non-Muslims cannot use the word Allah. For example, the Sikh in their scriptures use it, as well as the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak. As Christian leaders solemnly declared in 1990 in Kuching, whatever the decision of the government or a court, Christians will continue to use the word Allah' during their worship".
Fr. Paul Cheong OFM Cap, priest and pastor in Kuala Lumpur, told Fides: "This is clearly a political decision. It is not based on facts, or the right or on history. There are purely political reasons to justify it. It is very sad and unfair for us". "The road now - he concludes - is to continue to use the word "Allah" during worship. Even believers in Sabah and Sarawak will continue. The Herlad cannot do it. Certainly, the Islamic radicals want to ask the ban for Christians at a national level, and it is absurd: we think that Christians use the term 'Allah' in all other Islamic countries in the world". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 23/06/2014)

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