What's the Latest Development?
A 2009 court ruling that permitted the use of "Allah" as a generic term for God regardless of religion has been overturned by a Malaysian appeals court. The original decision took place after a Malay-language Catholic newspaper, The Herald, sued the government for the right to use the term. In the wake of that ruling, dozens of churches were burned. With the reversal, chief judge Mohamed Apandi Ali declared the word "is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity. The usage of the word will cause confusion in the community."
What's the Big Idea?
"Allah" has been part of the Malay language -- and Malay-language Bibles and other Christian publications -- since before Malaysia became a state, say supporters of the newspaper. Although nearly two-thirds of the country's population is Muslim, Christians and Hindus make up significant portions of the remaining one-third. Editor Rev. Lawrence Andrew says the decision represents "a retrograde step in the development of law in relation to the fundamental liberty of religious minorities." Representing the government, lawyer Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar says, "Allah is not a Malay word. If they want to use a Malay word, they should use Tuhan instead of Allah."
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