A Malaysian appeals court upholds a government ban on using the word "Allah" to refer to god in a Catholic publication.

A Malaysian appeals court ruled on Monday that only Muslims can use the word “Allah” to refer to god, upholding a government ban on the word being used in a Catholic publication.

The ruling reverses an earlier lower court decision.

“Our common finding that the use of Allah is not an integral part of the Christian faith, so we find no justification for why they insist on using the name or word in their publication,” said Justice Mohamed Apandi who read a summary of the more than 100-page ruling.

He said the three-member appellate court panel also noted that allowing non-Muslims to use the word would cause confusion and could jeopardise public safety.

“The welfare of an individual or group, must yield to the interest of society at large,” he said.

Annou Xavier, one of the lawyers for the Catholic Church, said he would discuss with his client whether they would appeal in the Federal Court.

The controversy started in 2008 when the government prohibited Catholic publication The Herald from using the word “Allah”, and the church filed a court case questioning the order.

On December 31, 2009, the Kuala Lumpur High Court lifted the prohibition, noting that the church had a constitutional right to use the word in its publication on the ground that religions other than Islam can be practiced in peace and harmony.

The High Court decision triggered protests from Muslim groups.

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