Jan. 20 - A spat between Muslims and Christians over the use of the word 'Allah' threatens to tarnish Malaysia's reputation as a moderate state. Michaela Cabrera reports.
(CORRECTING NAME OF HERALD EDITOR FROM 'CHARLES LAWRENCE' TO 'LAWRENCE ANDREW') A court in Malaysia ruled last year that non-Muslims may not use the word 'Allah' to refer to god. The ruling in Selangor state has fanned religious tensions in the multi-racial country, and threatens to tarnish its image as a moderate state. Many say such Islamization is driven by politics, and it risks eroding a secular constitution, and minority rights. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RICHENDA RAPHAEL, 25, CHURCHGOER SAYING: "It's so ridiculous to fight for such a word (Allah), because you have the right to use it. It's just a matter of faith." Islamic authorities recently confiscated 300 bibles written in the Malay language. Police have said a newspaper editor Lawrence Andrew must be charged with sedition for saying that churches in the state would keep saying 'Allah'. A recent gathering of the ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation, called for respect of religious beliefs. (SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Malay) MUSLIM HAMIDZUN KHAIRUDDIN SAYING: "Mutual respect is necessary among the heads of religions as well as those who follow them." A number of Islamic scholars say the word 'Allah' is not exclusive to Muslims, and the Quran does not prohibit other religions from using it. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JAMES CHIN, MONASH UNIVERSITY MALAYSIA'S HEAD OF SCHOOL OF ART AND SOCIAL SCIENCES SAYING: "I think although they know the word "Allah" is not exclusive to the Muslim religion, they don't really care. (cut) I think it's quite clear that the international community suddenly realize that all this talk about Malaysia being a moderate country may not be true anymore." Meanwhile - Christians are left in limbo. In eastern states, they can still use 'Allah', but in the peninsula where many of them have migrated, there is growing wariness.