On 23 June last year I blogged about a case in Malaysia where the Government had prevented the Catholic Herald of Malaysia from using the word "Allah" in its Malay publication. In its Judgment Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v Negeri & Ors Civil Application No.: 08-690-11/2013 the Federal Court of Malaysia, which is the highest Court in the Country, noted [para 30]
" the reasons given by the Minister in his Affidavit In Reply, it is clear that he was concerned with national security and public order."
the Federal Court in the same paragraph endorsed the view of the Court of Appeal
"the usage of the word ‘Allah' particularly in the Malay version of the Herald, is without doubt, do have the potential to disrupt the even tempo of the life of the Malaysian community."
In its Judgement the Federal Court basically took a very narrow and technical view of its powers of Judicial Review and regarded the decision as one that fell within the area of Executive discretion.
The Catholic Church recently applied to the Federal Court to reconsider its Judgment on the basis that it had not properly taken account of the provisions of the Constitution of Malaysia relating to religious freedom. Not surprisingly perhaps the Federal Court having looked at its own decision decided it had been right all along and so the possibility of any further review of the Federal Court decision has ended see News Links HERE, HERE, HERE, There appears to be no further legal route for the Catholic Church to appeal this ban on it using the word "Allah" for God in Malay services and publications and there are already attempts to try to stop the Catholic Herald publishing anything in Malay.
As an outsider this decision by the Malaysian Government to try to control the use of the word "Allah" seems bizarre. Arab Christians use "Allah" and I was recently in Malta, an extremely Catholic country, where in services God is routinely called "Alla". In a strange way to try to keep Allah as a word only to be used by Muslims actually diminishes "Allah" who ceases to be "the God", the one true creator of the Universe and instead becomes merely the God of Muslims on a par with Zeus or Odin.
I wonder however whether this idea of restricting the use of the word "Allah" will spread within the Muslim World. A particular danger may be that the Ahmadiyya Muslims will be targeted and prevented from using the word "Allah" in their services. They are not regarded as "true" Muslims by most Sunni and Shia groups and are already prevented from describing themselves as Muslims in many countries