A Malaysian court on Thursday refused to give permission to the Roman Catholic Church to use the word "Allah," thus upholding a government ban that has caused controversial religious tensions in the country.
The government banned non-Muslims from using the word "Allah" as a translation of God in their publications, saying it would confuse Muslims in the multiethnic but Muslim-majority country.
The High Court rejected an appeal by the church's main publication in Malaysia, named the Herald, to have the ban suspended while waiting for a court decision on the ban's legality on July 7.
The Herald serves a nationwide readership, but is focused mainly on the tribal communities in Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island, who converted to Christianity more than a century ago.
Christian groups say the ban is unconstitutional, arguing that the word "Allah" predates Islam.
Earlier this month Malaysia's Islamist opposition party and Muslim scholars complained after a top court allowed Christian publications to use the word "Allah" on the condition they published a disclaimer saying the publications were not intended for Muslims.
The government said the use of the Arabic word might offend the sensitivities of Malaysia's Muslim population.
Around 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people are Muslim Malays.
Christianity is practiced by 9.1 percent of the Malaysian population, many of whom are either ethnic Chinese or from Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo Island, according to government data.
The rest of the population practices Buddhism or Hinduism.