01/22/2015, 00.00
MALAYSIA - ISLAM

Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur: Ruling on the word 'Allah' threatens religious freedom

Msgr. Julian Leow stresses that the verdict has "opened up a Pandora's box." The prelate fears a "progressive reduction of minority rights" and "increasing interference in the religious sphere." Fr. Lawrence, director of the Herald, hopes that "minority rights are not trampled on". Another decision handed down today against Christians in a story similar to that of the Catholic newspaper.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church in Malaysia is concerned about yesterday's Federal Court decision, which dismissed the Catholics appeal on the use of the word "Allah". The ruling, in fact, might "open up a Pandora's box" that will lead to the gradual reduction of the rights of minorities and increasing interference in the religious sphere. A fear expressed and shared by the new Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Msgr. Julian Leow, who does not hide his "disappointment" for the court's ruling, which, however, "was not totally unexpected."

Yesterday, the Federal Court of Malaysia rejected for the umpteenth - and perhaps last - time the appeal filed by the Catholic Church, that he intended to bring the case concerning the use of the word "Allah" for non-Muslims to the Supreme Court. The five judges who made up the jury voted unanimously denying the possibility of any further legal action because "there were procedural errors" in the lower courts.

Speaking to Malaysian Insider, the prelate said: " "I  would like to believe this adverse decision is confined only to the Herald and will not open a Pandora's box on curbing the rights of minorities in managing our own religious affairs. In God we continue to pray and trust that there is light at the end of this tunnel".

Meanwhile, the Catholics lawyer Datuk Cyrus Das, said that the "Allah" case - despite everything - is not yet over. He explains that there are "core elements" in this matter, including the appearance of religious freedom, which could be "revised" in the future in the context of legal proceedings very similar to the one that has just been archived.

Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of Malaysia Herald, is more pessimistic and believes the legal battle for their weekly paper is over. However, the priest hopes that "we can still live together in peace and harmony" and, at the same time, "we pray that minority rights are not trampled on".

Today, meanwhile, the High Court of Kuala Lumpur authorized the confiscation of eight CDs belonging to a Christian ethnic Sarawakian, Jill Ireland, because they contain within them the word "Allah"; the case is similar to that of the Herald, and which unfortunately seems destined to end in the same way although there remains the possibility of appeal.

In Malaysia, a mostly Muslim nation (60 per cent) of more than 28 million, Christians are the third largest religious group after Buddhists with more than 2.6 million members. A Latin-Malay dictionary published 400 year ago shows that 'Allah' was used in the Bible from the start to refer to God in the local language. Out of a population of over 11 million people, Catholics in Kuala Lumpur number over 180 thousand; there are 55 priests, 154 religious and one permanent deacon.

 

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