No let-up in use of 'Allah'
MALAYSIAN churches defiantly continued to use the word "Allah" to refer to the Christian God in Sunday services despite the Muslim-majority country's leader saying they must obey rules against the practice.
Malay-speaking Christians prayed and sang hymns using the Arabic word, a practice they have observed for hundreds of years but now the focus of an increasingly tense religious row in the South-east Asian nation.
"They all contain the word 'Allah'," a pastor at a church near the capital Kuala Lumpur said of the songs sung by his congregation.
"(The Malay-language Bible) contains the word 'Allah'. When we preach we have to read the text. It's a really difficult situation," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Under pressure from Muslim conservatives, Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Friday that Malaysian Christians must heed rules forbidding them from using the word.
Islamist leaders in the country say "Allah" - which is also used by Malay Muslims to refer to their creator - is exclusive to their religion and must not be used by non-Muslims.
Church leaders have vowed not to back down.
"Christians in Malaysia have no choice but to use the Malay-language bibles. To say they cannot use these bibles, it means saying 'you are not allowed to worship in the language that you want'," said the Reverend Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia.