Malaysia Gov't Sued Over Seized Christian CDs

( [email protected] ) Nov 28, 2008 07:16 AM EST

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A Malaysian Christian is suing the government for allegedly violating her religious rights after airport officials seized Christian educational CDs that she brought from Indonesia, the woman's lawyer said.

Customs authorities in this Muslim-majority country confiscated eight CDs from Jill Ireland when she flew back to Kuala Lumpur on May 11 after a trip to Jakarta, her lawyer, Annou Xavier, said late Thursday.

The Home Ministry informed her in a letter that the CDs were seized mainly because their cover titles contained the word "Allah," which is prohibited in non-Muslim religious material, Xavier said.

Ireland wants the Kuala Lumpur High Court to issue a declaration allowing her to transport any religious material for her own personal use, Xavier said.

The court on Thursday scheduled Jan. 30 for a preliminary hearing.

Government lawyer Suzana Atan declined to comment on details of the case, but noted that authorities have barred the use of the word "Allah" except for Muslim publications.

Malaysia's constitution guarantees freedom of worship for non-Muslims, who make up more than one-third of the country's 27 million people.

However, minority Buddhists, Christians and Hindus have increasingly voiced allegations of religious discrimination due to incidents in recent years such as the occasional demolition of Hindu temples by state authorities.

The government last year ruled that non-Muslims cannot use the word "Allah," an Arabic word that is a synonym for "God" in Malaysia's national language.

The ban has sparked criticism by Christians who use it to refer to God in their Malay-language Bible and other publications. A Malaysian church and Christian weekly newspaper have launched court actions to challenge the ban.

Government officials have expressed concerns that using "Allah" in Christian literature could confuse Malaysia's Muslims and draw them to Christianity.

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