Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia`s top politicians and academics today termed as "very disturbing" a court ruling that barred non-Muslims from using the word "Allah" to refer to God in the Muslim-majority nation.
A unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal on Monday allowed the government`s appeal to set aside the 2009 decision of a High Court which had allowed `The Herald`, a Malaysian Catholic newspaper, to use the word "Allah" to refer to God.
A member of the ruling Malaysian Chinese Association party, Heng Seai Kie, said she was surprised and disappointed with the judgement, adding that the jurisdiction of the law should be consistent and should also protect the rights of minority groups, the Star Online reported.
According to another parliamentarian Ong Kian Ming, the decision shows a "complete lack of understanding" of the practise of Christians in Malaysia, who have used the word in worship and liturgy for generations.
Ong said the reasons given by the three presiding judges in the grounds of judgement were "especially disappointing" and had far-reaching implications beyond the use of the word "Allah".
Ong said that one of the judges, Mohd Zawawi Salleh, had done a "great disservice" to Christians by liberally quoting sources from outside Malaysia to explain that Christians do not agree with the use of the word, the report said.
In December 2009, the High Court had declared the decision by the home ministry prohibiting `The Herald` from using the word "Allah" as illegal, null and void.
Anger over that ruling had sparked arson attacks and vandalism at Malaysian churches and other places of worship.
Dr Faisal Hazis, senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said the support of right-wing groups and Islamic groups for the ruling was worrying.
"The court and these groups should not sow the seeds of fear and hatred among Muslims towards our Christian brothers and sisters as they exercise the freedom of religion. This in itself is not Islamic. There is no coercion in Islam," Hazis said.