More than 300 bibles were seized in the office of the Bible Society of Malaysia during a raid conducted by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department or Jais which wanted to enforce a law that prohibits non-Muslims from using the word Allah in their religious publications. Allah is used to refer to God in the Bahasa translation of the bible.
The Non-Islamic Religious (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 listed 25 words and phrases which non-Muslims cannot use. A few months ago, Malaysia’s Court of Appeals ruled that a Catholic paper cannot use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God because it might create confusion among Muslims.
The issue sparked an intense debate in Malaysia which is a Muslim-majority country. About 10 percent of the population are Christians who have been using the term Allah to refer to God in their religious publications and rituals for many years already.
Despite the court ruling, a Catholic priest declared that he will still use ‘Allah’ in the church service which enraged some Muslim groups. The Klang Muslim Solidarity Secretariat, a coalition of Muslim NGOs, have been holding street protests to denounce the use of Allah by non-Muslims.
The Twitter photo below shows some progressive Muslims showing solidarity to Christians after Muslim groups vowed to hold bigger protests.
Muslims showing support to the Church for peace and harmony. Well done the thru Malaysians Muslim moderates. pic.twitter.com/RzoG6SFoXW
— JeraldJoseph (@jeraldjoseph2) January 5, 2014
Meanwhile, the National Unity Consultative Council has been working on a proposed 10-point solution to settle the issue peacefully. One of the proposals is to put a ‘Christian publication’ label on bibles and a cross sign so as to not confuse Muslims.
June H.L. Wong thinks that an international panel can help Malaysia resolve this controversial matter:
…if we can’t resolve this internally by ourselves, perhaps we should seek an international panel of eminent experts to act as mediators to help us get out of this impasse rationally and equitably.
There is no shame in seeking outside help in times of crisis and if this isn’t a crisis, I don’t know what is.
Several Chinese youth organizations urged all parties to be tolerant and respectful:
In a pluralistic country like ours, all parties need to continue being tolerant and respectful of and appreciate each other. We also call on both sides to actively contribute to talks to work towards finding a solution to this problem on the basis of fairness and harmony.
Melati Timur does not support the argument that the use of Allah by Christians would weaken the faith of Muslims:
Why is the Muslim faith deemed the more fragile, more in need of protection? Aren’t we told all the time how superior this faith is, this faith of the majority and political elites? If it is so superior, why is it that our confusion is considered so inevitable compared to people of other faiths? Are you saying there is actually something wrong with our faith, something so close to the surface that the mere use of an Arabic word that means God by Christians will reveal all and thus turn us away from Islam in droves?
Lucia Lai also doesn’t believe that Muslims will be confused if Christians would use the term Allah:
no. 1: does muslim goes to sunday church to listen to their sermons? if no, how will they get confused?
no. 2: even if muslim does hear sermons with ‘allah’ in it, why you think they can get confused? simple! it is because you don't trust your own muslim brethren – you think their faith is so weak that just listening to it, they will get confused or get converted
Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, expressed solidarity to Christians by visiting a church service:
At the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Klang to show what 'Islam is a religion of peace' really means..
— Marina Mahathir (@netraKL) January 5, 2014
anas zubedy tries to probe deeper as to why some Muslims are not comfortable with Christians using the word Allah:
Their apprehension is in a sense understandable, given the attempts by some Christian missionaries during the colonial epoch to impose their religion upon Muslims and people of other faiths. Even in the post-colonial period this has continued albeit in different forms and through different channels.
Thumbnail used is from @fzdotcom