06/06/2014, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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On 23 June, court to decide appeal over 'Allah' ban

Catholics are cautiously optimistic that the Federal Court will accept the application and rule on the controversial issue. Meanwhile, everyone is invited to keep a low profile. Despite opposition, constructive talks are underway to ensure interfaith harmony.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - Malaysian Catholics are cautiously optimistic about the 23 June hearing in the Federal Court that will determine whether the Church's appeal against a ruling by the Court of Appeal can be heard. For religious minorities, the case also represents an important step towards the full recognition of their rights.

In October last year, the Court of Appeal upheld the home minister's ban on the use of the word 'Allah' by the Herald, a Catholic weekly, for the Christian God.

A spate of incidents followed, including the desecration of graves, the firebombing of a church, and last January, the seizure of 300 copies of the Bible.

On 27 May, the lawyer for the paper S. Selvarajah received a letter indicating the date for the next hearing.

In its request for leave, the Church submitted 26 questions on the constitution, administrative law as well as the power of the court to allow the home minister to ban the use of a theological term.

These questions are part of the application filed by lawyers representing the Church, which sought leave to appear before the Federal Court to challenge the Court of Appeal's ruling on the 'Allah' issue.

Under anonymity, a Catholic source told AsiaNews that the ruling decide on the legitimacy of the application, not on the Church's position on the ban.

For now, the goal is also to keep a low profile. "I do not want to say too much," the source explained, "but there could be some changes in the coming months."

Although nothing is certain, there is reason for hope. Opposition remains and so the "less we talk about it the better". However, constructive talks are underway that could lead to some positive outcome.

In fact, the government is considering a law on national harmony to end confrontations and divisions. However, it has not yet gone to parliament and it will take quite some time.

In Malaysia, a nation of more than 28 million people, mostly Muslims (60 per cent), Christians are the third largest religious group (after Buddhists) with more than 2.6 million members.

A Latin-Malay dictionary published 400 years ago shows that the word Allah was already in use to describe the Biblical God in the local language.

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