01/04/2010, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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Malaysian Supreme Court authorizes Christians to use the word Allah. Government appeals

Minister for Religious Affairs: protecting the name of Allah from "insults and abuse." The website of the weekly Catholic Herald Malaysia attacked by hackers. The Director: guarantee the constitutional rights of freedom of religion and speech.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - The Malaysian government will appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court, which authorized the weekly Catholic Herald Malaysia to use the word "Allah".

The Executive has invited faithful to remain calm, while stressing that "Allah" is only for Muslims. Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Catholic weekly, states that there is no intention of proselytizing, but to ensure respect for "the right of religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution and freedom of thought."
 
On 31 December, the judges - after a long legal battle led by local Catholics, and supported by AsiaNews - agreed that the term can be used in the Malay language as a reference to God, even by non-Muslims. An adverse decision according to the executive which through Jamil Khir Johari, Minister for Religious Affairs, says that "it is important to protect the use of the word" and prevent "insults and abuse." He promised "all necessary legal measures, in compliance with the Federal Constitution" so  the government regulation is reintroduced.
 
Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, refers to the Constitution which stresses the "right" enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the State to "religious freedom" and "freedom of thought and opinion." In its ruling the judges said that Catholics "have a constitutional right" to use the word "Allah", branded as "illegal, null and void" by the previous government legislation.
 
Last night the website of the Catholic publication - www.heraldmalaysia.com- was twice attacked by hackers. Engineers have neutralized the raids and the site has resumed regular activities. The director will not comment on the incident, so as not to "increase tension" to a "very delicate" issue.  
 
In an editorial released in the next issue of the magazine - and received exclusively by AsiaNews - Father Andrew says that "the Christian faithful have used the word Allah since the time of the Sultanate of Malacca." The priest adds that "one of the first dictionaries printed in Malay language, the Malay-Latin dictionary of 1631, contains the word Allah." He stresses that "the Catholic weekly is in line with the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution" concerning freedom of expression, speech and religion. Fr. Andrew finally thanks those who "have supported us on many occasions," through "prayer and fasting."
 
The Malaysia Herald is published in four languages and has a circulation of about 14 thousand copies per week. Malaysia is a multi-cultural country, it has a population exceeding 23 million inhabitants, with a substantial presence of ethnic minorities, including Chinese and Indian. 60% are Muslim: Christians are about 10% of the population.
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