PETALING JAYA, 27 Feb 2009: The latest gazetted order on the conditional use of the word “Allah” by Christian publications is unacceptable and does not make sense, the MCA said.
In a statement released today, the MCA said it acknowledged that the home ministry had heeded the calls by Christian groups to allow Christian publications to use the word “Allah”.
“However, the conditional usage of ‘Allah’ in print form is unacceptable and an affront to common sense,” said MCA Central Committee member Gan Ping Sieu, who also heads the party’s Political Education Bureau.
He said the Christian bumiputeras’ right to use “Allah” should not be confined to Christian literature alone.
“The majority of [the] Christians in Malaysia are bumiputeras from Sabah, Sarawak and [the] Orang Asli whose mother tongue is Bahasa Malaysia. As Christian bumiputeras speak and pray in Bahasa Malaysia as their first language, the government must lift the ban not only for printed publication, but to include oral references to God as ‘Allah’ too,” he said.
The new order was made on 21 Jan 2009, and published in the Government Gazette on 16 Feb 2009, with immediate effect.
The section, “Internal Security (Prohibition On Use of Specific Words on Document and Publication) Order 2009”, says: “The printing, publishing, sale, issue, circulation and possession of any document and publication relating to Christianity containing the words ‘Allah’, ‘Kaabah’, ‘Baitullah’ and ‘Solat’ are prohibited unless [written on] the front cover of the document and publication are the words ‘FOR CHRISTIANITY’.”
The order was reported in the news yesterday, on the eve of the High Court hearing today of the judicial review on the Herald’s case. Following the ministry’s ban on its use of the word “Allah”, the Catholic weekly has sought a court order to challenge the government’s decision.
Gan noted that the latest gazetted order was directed at Christian publications and did not include other religions which also refer to God as “Allah”.
He said the Sikhs also referred to God as “Allah” in their religious scriptures and worship.
“[Does] that mean if either Christians or Sikhs attending their respective church and temple services or in their personal capacity were to pray to God using the term ‘Allah’ [they are] deemed to have violated the law for practising their faith?” he asked.
“The government should come out clearer that ‘Allah’ may also be used by Sikhs too. There should not be different standards for different religions in referring to God as ‘Allah’ as it serves to confuse and polarise Malaysians,” he said.
In the same statement, the MCA also took to task Parti Keadilan Rakyat member of Parliament for Kulim, Zulkifli Nordin, who objected to the Herald using “Allah”.
Zulkifli said in the Dewan Rakyat recently that Malay language Bibles using the word “Allah” could cause confusion among Muslims.
Gan said “nobody has an exclusive claim on ‘Allah’ for any particular religion”.
He added that native Christians who were minority groups in Egypt, Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon and Palestine, and Arab countries like Iraq, Iran and Yemen referred to God as “Allah”.
He said the term “Allah” was an Arabic word which predated the arrival of Islam, and was accepted by all Arabic peoples, irrespective of faith or dialect, to mean God.
“Perhaps Zulkifli is unaware that the great Malay scholar and linguist Munshi Abdullah who served in the British colonial office had translated the Bible into the Malay language and remained a devout practising Muslim,” Gan said.
“Moreover, native Indonesian Christians throughout the country’s archipelago refer to God as ‘Allah’,” he said.
Gan described the restriction on the use of the word “Allah” in Malaysia as “an intellectual fraud and blatant disregard of the history of the great religions”.
“We are aware that preaching to Muslims is against the law. But there is no evidence that the use of ‘Allah’ by Christians and Sikhs confuses anyone except some self-righteous, overzealous religious leaders and politicians who misuse the name of God for personal political gains at the expense of others,” he said.
“Therefore, the government and religious authorities [in Malaysia] have a duty to educate the public on the shared heritage of great religions rather than alienate and further confuse or mislead the God-fearing followers,” he added.
See also: Christian publications can use “Allah”