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Allah, the Arabic word for “God,” is used by both Christians and Muslims throughout the Arab world.

Christian and Sikh religious literature in Malaysia often uses Allah to refer to God.

Church leaders have filed complaints in civil courts arguing that the Allah rule infringes on religious freedom.

A string of prominent religious conversion cases recently has been criticized for granting special privileges to Muslims in the multiethnic and ostensibly secular nation.

Article 3 of the Federal Constitution states the official religion of Malaysia is Islam, but Article 11 protects the right to religious freedom.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled Friday that the wife of a Christian Malaysian who died Dec. 30 could be buried by her husband.

The ruling overturned a decision by the Federal Islamic Territorial Council, which claimed the woman converted to Islam six days before she died.

The High Court hearing marked a departure from civil court precedents in which Islamic matters are typically ceded to Shariah courts.

Angela Wu, the International Law Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, called the procedure a “horrible Catch-22.”

“The civil courts are saying they aren’t competent to decide whether someone is a Muslim where Islamic interests are invoked,” Ms. Wu said.

“Only the Shariah courts can decide whether you are a Muslim — and the Shariah courts will not hear the testimony of non-Muslims.”