Non-Muslims cannot use the word Allah while referring to God, even in their own faiths, a Malaysian court ruled Monday while overturning a 2009 lower court ruling.
The court has maintained that the term Allah must be exclusive to Islam or it could cause public disorder, BBC reported Monday.
People of all faiths use the word Allah in Malay language to refer to their respective gods.
Christians contend that they have used the word, which entered Malay from Arabic, to refer to their god for centuries and that the ruling violates their rights.
The 2009 ruling had sparked tensions, with churches and mosques attacked.
It came after the government said that a Catholic daily - The Herald - could not use "Allah" in its Malay-language edition while describing the Christian god.
The daily sued, and a court ruled in their favour in December 2009. But the government then launched an appeal.
On Monday, while upholding the appeal, Judge Mohamed Apandi Ali said: "The usage of the word Allah is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity. The usage of the word will cause confusion in the community."
Stating that he was "disappointed and dismayed", The Herald's editor Reverend Lawrence Andrew said he would appeal against the decision. "It is a retrograde step in the development of law in relation to the fundamental liberty of religious minorities."
The newspaper's supporters have argued that Malay-language Bibles have used Allah to refer to the Christian God since before Malaysia was formed as a federal state in 1963.
Dozens of churches and a few Muslim prayer halls were attacked and burned in the wake of the 2009 ruling, highlighting the intensity of feeling about issues of ethnicity and faith in Malaysia.