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Malaysia withholds 'Allah Bibles'

4 November 09 22:48 GMT
By Robert Pigott
BBC News, Religious affairs correspondent

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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