An United Arab Emirates (UAE) newspaper has expressed its astonishment with the Court of Appeal's decision yesterday to ban the Catholic weekly Herald from using the word ‘Allah' to refer to God, emphasising that the word was "not exclusive to Islam".

The National, an government-owned UAE newspaper which is based in Abu Dhabi, said that yesterday's court decision appears to be "wrong".

"In a fellow Muslim country with substantial Christian and Hindu populations, this feels like the wrong decision," said the editorial.

"The word ‘Allah' is never exclusive to Islam - indeed, both Christians and Jews used the word ‘Allah' to refer to God even before the coming of Islam," it said.

"When Christians across the Middle East pray to God, they use the term ‘Allah'. Walk into a church in Cairo, Baghdad or Beirut this coming Sunday and you will hear the name of ‘Allah' invoked.

"The Quran itself is explicit on this subject, declaring, in Surah Al Ankabut, that Muslims should tell People of the Book (Christians and Jews) that ‘our God and your God is one'."

Etymology overlooked

The editorial said that the decision overlooks not only the theology, but also the etymology of the word.

"The word ‘Allah' is derived from the Arabic ‘al-ilah', the god. It's found its way across the world and entered Malay from Arabic," it said.

"Arabic as a language is a vehicle for faith, be that Christianity, Judaism or Islam. The God of the three monotheistic religions is the same god. It is unsurprising, therefore, that all three faiths in the Arabic-speaking world (and beyond) refer to God as ‘Allah'.

"And if they have the same God, they should have the right to call their deity by the same name," it added.