Malaysia: Catholic newspaper not allowed to use 'Allah' to refer to God

Muslim demonstrators gathered outside court during the initial ruling in October 2013.Reuters

Malaysia's top court has ruled that a Catholic newspaper cannot use the word "Allah" to refer to God.

The Herald in Malaysia, which in the past regularly used "Allah" to refer to God in a Christian context, was denied permission by Malaysia's Federal Court to seek a review of an earlier decision to let a ban stand.

The decision by the panel of five judges was unanimous.

Benjamin Dawson, lawyer for the Church, said: "We relied on procedural unfairness and they said that they don't think that any procedural unfairness had occurred. That was the brief reason given."

Acknowledging that his long fight to use the term was now at an end, editor Rev Lawrence Andrew said: "There is nowhere to go."

The Malaysian government was among those who argued that "Allah" should remain exclusive to Muslims.

The Catholic Church has about 180,000 members in Malaysia. It faced accusations of proselytism during the long court battle that began in 2008 when the Church challenged a decision by the Home Minister to ban its use of "Allah".

Haniff Khatri Abdulla, a lawyer representing some of those who supported the ban, said: "At the end of the day, as litigators, as lawyers, as advocates, we need our matters to come to an end as well."