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Malaysia top court refuses to overturn ban on non-Muslims using 'Allah'

[JURIST] The Federal Court of Malaysia [official website, in Malay] on Monday declined to hear an appeal challenging Malaysia's ban on non-Muslims using the word "Allah" to refer to God. The case was brought by the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur on behalf of the Herald [media website], a Catholic newspaper based in Malaysia. Before the ban, "Allah" was frequently used to refer to God in Malay because the word was imported from Arabic and the Malay language has no other way of referring to God. Malaysian Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria stated [AFP report] that the lower court had applied the correct legal standard in upholding the ban and that the Federal Court would not act to overturn it. Although many Muslim activists praised the ruling, many Catholics criticized the decision.

Monday's ruling comes after the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief urged the Malaysian government to overturn [JURIST report] the ban. In October of last year, an appeals court in Malaysia upheld [JURIST report] the ban. That ruling overturned a 2010 decision by the Malaysia High Court striking down the ban [JURIST report] which had been implemented three years before. The case first emerged in 2007 after the Malaysian Home Ministry told the Herald that if it did not stop using the word "Allah" in its Malay language edition, its publishing permit would be revoked.

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