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"Allah" and "God" in Malaysia

On New Year's eve, the Malaysian High Court reportedly ruled that the Catholic Church may lawfully use the term "Allah" to refer to "God." The judgment is not yet available on the High Court's website but useful reports are available at the Jurist, on the BBC, and in Time Magazine.

In the aftermath of the High Court's judgment, Christian places of worship in Malaysia have been the target of at least six arson attacks. There have also been peaceful protests.

The High Court has since moved to calm the waters in the country, which has a Muslim majority. Just a few days ago, the High Court issued a stay of its earlier ruling, suspending the coming into force of its judgment pending the resolution of an appeal by the Attorney General to the higher Court of Appeal.

The Attorney General is quoted as describing this controversy as "a matter of national interest." That it surely is. But this case should be of interest also to comparativists abroad because it will test the meaning of Article 3 of the Malaysian Constitution, which establishes Islam as the official state religion even as it preserves the freedom of religion for non-Muslims.

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