Malaysia's highest court ruled today that the Catholic newspaper The Herald has no grounds to appeal a lower court's decision preventing it from using the word Allah to refer to God, The Malay Mail Online reports.
A seven-member bench at the Federal Court decided by a narrow 4-to-3 majority to deny the Catholic paper the right of appeal.
'The Court of Appeal was right to set aside the High Court Ruling,' Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria told a packed courtroom this morning, upholding the lower court's decision last year which overturned a high court ruling from 2009 allowing the paper to use the word as a constitutional right.
Three other judges – Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, and Federal Court judges Datuk Zainun Ali and Tan Sri Jeffrey Tan Kok Hwa – held that leave should be granted to the Catholic Church.
The legal dispute has been in the courts for the past six years after the Home Ministry banned the publication of the word Allah in The Herald's Bahasa Malaysia section in 2007.
Last year, the Court of Appeal had ruled that Allah was not integral to the Christian faith and could confuse Muslims as well as threaten national security and public order.
The Church had argued that Christians in Sabah and Sarawak had been using the word for centuries and took the case to the Federal Court seeking the right to appeal the decision, culminating in today's rejection.
One of the church's lawyers S. Selvarajah said that although a review of a Federal Court decision was rarely invoked, it was something that the Church would consider, the Malaysian Insider added.
Catholic Church disappointed, mulls option to ask for review of Allah decision (The Catholic Herald/Malaysian Insider)
Christian paper loses battle to use 'Allah' (Malay Mail Online)
Top Malaysian court dismisses 'Allah' case (Al Jazeera)