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Najib vows to defend use of Allah as exclusive to Muslims

Putrajaya has pledged to defend the use of the word Allah as the exclusive right of Muslims, even as the debate continued following the October 14 Court of Appeal ruling banning the use of the word in a Catholic weekly.

In his message marking the Islamic new year or Maal Hijrah today, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said while Malaysia upholds the Federal Constitution and the position of Islam, it also subscribed to the concept of moderation, or Wasatiyyah, saying it is the foundation of the country’s harmony.

“To appreciate the wider meaning of Hijrah (migration), we still uphold our religion and defend the name of Allah for religion, race and our beloved country.

“Malaysia which upholds the Constitution and Islam as the official religion of the country, will remain steadfast in defending the position of Islam in the country in line with Maqasid Syariah and the concept of Wasatiyyah,” Najib said in his message posted on his 1Malaysia blog today.

Several Muslim groups have insisted that the word Allah belonged exclusively to Muslim, although Christians and other faiths have argued otherwise.

This followed the recent Court of Appeal decision not to allow Catholic weekly Herald to use the word Allah in its Bahasa Malaysia section, after a long legal battle over the usage of the word.

The decision overturned an earlier ruling by the High Court in  2009, which said that Allah, the Arabic word for God, was not the exclusive right of Muslims, and allowed the Herald to use it.

The ruling was challenged by the Home Ministry in its appeal in January 2010.

The Court of Appeal noted the Home Ministry's prohibition on the Herald from using the word was justified, arguing that Allah was not integral to the Christian faith.

The church has 30 days to file the leave application to appeal against the Court of Appeal decision.

The decision sparked a debate on whether Christians in Sabah and Sarawak, who mostly use Bahasa Malaysia in their worship, were also bound by the ruling.

This led Najib assuring Christians in East Malaysia that they can continue using the word, as stated in Putrajaya's so-called 10-point solution announced in 2011.

The Allah ruling also got worldwide attention, including strong comments from American Muslim theologian Reza Aslan who said the decision made a mockery of Malaysia.

The debate on the matter continues, with the Bar Council reportedly considering to back the Catholic weekly in the appeal process. This raised the ire of Muslim Lawyers Association, who strongly opposed the move. - November 5, 2013.

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