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“Allah” exclusive to Islam?

“In our country, if one refers to Allah or mentions kalimah Allah, it will bring to one’s mind that it refers to the God for Muslims. Kalimah Allah is sacred to the Muslims and put at the highest position, and its sanctity must be protected.”

“The usage of kalimah Allah as an interpretation of the word God may cause confusion, religious sensitivity and disharmony between the Muslims and the Christians.”

Senior Federal Counsel Datuk Kamaluddin Md Said submitting to the High Court on the Catholic Church’s application for judicial review over the prohibited use of the word Allah in Catholic weekly Herald. Kamaluddin reportedly submitted that “Allah” was exclusive to Islam as it was “a special name of the Muslim God”. (Source: Church cannot challenge ‘Allah’ ban, says govt counsel, Bernama as quoted in theSun, 14 Dec 2009)

“Malay has borrowed from Arabic, just as it has from Sanskrit and Portuguese.”

“We have maintained the community has the right to use the word [Allah].”

Rev Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia. CNN reported that Malaysian authorities have seized over 20,000 Malay bibles in recent months because they refer to God as “Allah”. (Source: Bibles seized as Malaysia minorities fear fundamentalism, CNN, 29 Oct 2009)

“We quote it as it is. We cannot change the text of the Scripture.”

“I cannot be the editor of the Bible.”

Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew speaking to CNN last year. (Source: Bibles seized as Malaysia minorities fear fundamentalism, CNN, 29 Oct 2009)

“For us, the problem is we’re not an Arabic-speaking country. Therefore some people question why non-Muslims have to use this word when it is not really necessary. People then make all sorts of speculations about ideology. But there’s no reason for the word to be banned from Christian worship. We’re quite happy if people use it.”

Shah Alam Member of Parliament Khalid Samad speaking to a Catholic church in Shah Alam on 27 March 2008. Khalid reassured the Christians in attendance they could continue to use the word “Allah” in their worship without fear of persecution. Khalid reportedly said that in all Arabic-speaking communities, “Allah” just means “God”, therefore it was not “unique to Islam”. (Source: The day Catholics welcomed a man from PAS in Shah Alam, The Malaysian Insider)

“What is most striking to the outside observer like me — though rather banal for the Egyptians themselves — is the fact that in all these celebrations ranging from Eid for the Muslims to Christmas for the Catholics and Copts, the word ‘Allah’ is used to denote that supreme and singular divinity, God. Catholics and Copts alike exclaim ‘Masha-allah’, ‘Wallahi’, ‘ya-Rabbi’, ‘Wallah-u allam’, and of course ‘Allahuakbar’ day in, day out, everywhere they go.”

“…the word ‘Allah’ predates the revelation to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and goes way back to the pre-Islamic era. Christians had been using the word long before there were any Muslims, in fact. Furthermore, the word is Arabic, and is thus common to all the peoples, cultures and societies where Arabic — in all its dialects — is spoken, and is understood by millions of Arabic speakers to mean God, and little else.”

Political scientist and historian Dr Farish A Noor writing on the restriction on the use of the word Allah. (Source: Monopoly on words, Daily Times Pakistan, 4 Jan 2008)

“The word Allah is not exclusive to any language or religion… It was used in Arabic, used before the advent of Islam, used everywhere where there is the Arab language. In Pakistan, in the Urdu language; in India, in the Punjabi language…Our Guru Granth Sahib is more than 500 years ago.”

“No restriction should be put in any way. We oppose it. Nobody should take it that we are against anyone —  we are just showing how it affects our rights, how it affects us in our prayers, in the daily use of our language. It’s for our freedom of worship, that’s all.”

Malaysian Gurdwaras Council president V Harcharan Singh. Harcharan said that any restriction on the use of “Allah” to mean God would be unacceptable to Sikhs as it would affect their freedom of worship. The word Allah appears in the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib. (Source: Gurdwaras: It’s our constitutional right,, 15 Nov 2009)

“My parents and family members were baptised into the Catholic faith in 1947. As a six-year-old boy, I was taught to pray to ‘Allah Taala’. The Creed, the acclamation of faith in the Christian prayer, when rendered in Iban begins as follows: ‘Aku arap ke siko aja’ Allah Taala, Apai Ke besai Kuasa, Ke ngaga Seruga enggau dunia.’

“In my own immediate family, through inter-marriage, there are Muslims, Christians and Hindus. Once a year, at Gawai Dayak, we visit the family longhouse. When the prayer leader reads excerpts from the Iban translation of the Bible, the words ‘Allah Taala’ are an integral part of the prayers…There is no hint of confusion among the Muslim members of the family.”

Letter to New Straits Times by former Energy, Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Dr Leo Moggie. (Source: Allah part of Iban prayers, The Micah Mandate, 6 April 2009) favicon

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7 Responses to ““Allah” exclusive to Islam?”

  1. watchdog says:

    All this is a manifestation of a perceived complex of insecurity. Tomorrow, they will say the sky is blue only for one religion’s followers — all others it may be grey, green or pink.

  2. faith04 says:

    The authorities have got political motives. They want to be seen as defenders of Islam to earn Muslim voters’ support for them to remain in power. They are making use of the word “Allah” for personal benefit. I pray that Muslims will not be deceived by the act.

  3. Eddy says:

    “Allah” is being mentioned daily in Malaysia; on tv, radio, and many residential areas etc. and yet none of the Christians in this country seem to get get confused and walk into a mosque thinking it is a church. The Malaysian government is basically telling the world the Malaysian Muslims are a stupid bunch of people. Well, I wonder who’s the stupid one here. Many Arab and African Muslims in Malaysia are laughing at the stupidity. At the end of the day, no one is giving Islam a bad name except the intelligence of our authorities.

  4. cj says:

    Thank you The Nut Graph for this compilation and clarification.

  5. oster says:

    I once met an Umno acolyte, who declared that we were all shortsighted to not see the solution: “Print all Christian texts in Sabahan or Sarawakian native languages.”

    Except, of course, that in the enthusiasm of embracing the Malaysian Dream, many natives (myself included) mastered their own flavour of the Malay language and have now sent their own native languages teetering on the brink of extinction.

    To deny them their religious rights under these circumstances would be insulting.

  6. valerie peter says:

    Don’t Christians and Muslims have the same God based on religious history?

  7. Philip Selvaraj says:

    I believe Islam would be completely wiped out in Malaysia if non-Muslims were given free rein in religious matters. Indonesia can afford to practice liberalism due to its huge Muslim population.

    Editor’s note: Actually, Indonesia’s success in respecting religious and ethnic diversity has a more complicated past, and certainly is a product of more complex interactions among state and non-state actors. Refer to:

    Shanon Shah
    Columns and comments editor

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