A Malaysian woman’s campaign for Christians’ right to use the word “Allah” for “God” has succeeded after almost 13 years of court hearings and delays.
Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill has been campaigning for the right to use the word ever since immigration officials at a Kuala Lumpur airport seized eight Christian CDs from her in May 2008 because the CDs used the word “Allah” in a Christian context.
After a seven-year legal battle, Ireland was given back the CDs in 2015, but she maintained that the court had failed to address her constitutional right as a Christian to use the word.
In October 2017, her lawyer, Lim Heng Seng, noted that 60% of Malaysia’s Christians speak the Bahasa Malaysia (‘language of Malaysia‘), which uses “Allah” for “God”. The word (which predates Islam) has been used by local Christians for hundreds of years, since Europeans first spread the religion, long before Malaysia even came into existence.
He said Christians were never consulted when in 1986 the country banned Christians from using the word, and that the government’s blanket ban was unconstitutional and discriminatory.
After years of delays, including several this year due to COVID-19 lockdown, the Court of Appeals judge Nor Bee ruled in Ireland’s favour that the 1986 directive by the Home Ministry to prohibit Christians from using four ‘prohibited’ words, including ‘Allah’, was not a blanket ban.
She found the directive, signed by a Home Ministry officer and not a minister, did NOT intend to provide a blanket ban over the use of the four words, banned by the Cabinet in 1986. The other three are Baitullah (House of God), Kaabah (Islam’s holiest place in Mecca), and solat (prayer).
World Watch Monitor