[JURIST] The Malaysian High Court [Malaysian courts website] ruled Thursday that non-Muslims can use the word "Allah" as a translation for the word "God", overturning a three-year government ban on the practice. The case was brought by the Herald, a weekly Catholic publication, against the Malaysian government in response to the ban. The newspaper argued that other options such as "Tuhan" or "Lord" were not appropriate [WSJ report] in the Malay-language editions of their publications, while Muslim groups have argued that use of the word "Allah" by the Catholic church was an attempt to confuse Muslims. The ruling has been opposed by Muslim groups, and the Malay-rights group Pribumi Perkasa [advocacy website, in Malay] has called for demonstrations [AFP report]. The Malaysian government has indicated it will appeal the decision.
Malaysia [JURIST news archive], a Muslim-majority country, has struggled [WSJ report] in recent years to find a balance between modernization and the policies of a more traditional Islamic government which has encouraged the spread of Sharia courts. Approximately 58 percent of Malaysia's population of 26 million are ethnic Malays, generally Muslims under Sharia jurisdiction. The remaining 40 percent of the population are mainly ethnic Chinese, indigenous, or Indian, and are generally Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, or Taoist/Confucian falling under the jurisdiction of civil courts. Both civil and Sharia courts have the authority to address cases [JURIST report] involving religious issues.