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Page last updated at 22:48 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Malaysia withholds 'Allah Bibles'

By Robert Pigott
BBC News, Religious affairs correspondent

Muslims take part in Friday prayer at the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur
About two-thirds of Malaysia's population is Muslim

The Malaysian government has refused to release 10,000 Bibles which it seized because they contained the word Allah to refer to God.

The government, which is dominated by Muslim Malays, claims that the word Allah is Islamic and that its use in Bibles could upset Muslims.

The Roman Catholic Church is challenging the ban in court.

Religion has become highly sensitive in Malaysia, where about two-thirds of the population is Muslim.

Religious minorities have accused the government of undermining their rights.

The government has impounded Bibles before, intercepting 5,000 in March as they were imported from Indonesia.

Church officials say that although the word Allah originated in Arabic, Malays have used it for centuries to refer generally to God, and Arabic-speaking Christians used it before Islam was founded.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia said the religious freedom guaranteed by the Malaysian constitution was meaningless if people were denied Bibles which used their own language.



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SEE ALSO
Malay court hearing 'Allah' case
24 May 09 |  South Asia
Malaysia reverses Allah paper ban
30 Dec 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Malaysian row over word for 'God'
28 Dec 07 |  Asia-Pacific

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