Thursday, December 27, 2012

Malay Catholics Battle, Again, For Use Of "Allah" In Bible

"Allah" is the Arabic word for God. Most of us associate it with Islam, but for some very strange reason Catholics in Malaysia want to use it as well (in their bible and other publications), and  Muslims in that country are refusing to allow them to.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) claims that Muslims have an exclusive right to the word, and Christians should just stick to "Tuhan", the Malay word for God.

PAS information chief Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said: “There are sensitive elements such as the Declaration of Faith (Shahadah) and Allah, which must be used in the correct context, otherwise there could be unease in a multi-religious society in view of the present situation”.

Referring to the various editions of Bible, Tuan Man said that manuscripts referred to a ‘God’ or ‘Lord’. He added that the Christians in West do not refer to God as ‘Allah’ in their religious texts.

This has been an ongoing battle since 2007 when Christians were banned from using the word "Allah" in any publication.  In 2008, a Catholic news publication, the Herald, sued the government for the right to use of Allah.  In 2010, Judge Lau Bee Lan ruled in their favor stating that Allah was not exclusively for Muslim use.

 "We have been using the word for decades in our Malay-language Bibles and without problems," the Rev. Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Catholic publication, tells TIME. In May 2008 the Catholics decided to take the matter to court for a judicial review — and won. "It is a landmark decision ... fair and just," says Andrew. During the intermittent trial in the closing months of 2008, lawyers for the church argued that the word Allah predated Islam and was commonly used by Copts, Jews and Christians to denote God in many parts of the world. They argued that Allah is an Arabic word for God and has been used for decades by the church in Malaysia and Indonesia. And they said that the Herald uses the word Allah for God to meet the needs of its Malay-speaking worshippers on the island of Borneo. "Some people have got the idea that we are out to convert [Muslims]. That's not true," the lawyers said on behalf of the Herald.
Government lawyers countered that Allah denotes the Muslim God, is accepted as such around the world and is exclusively for Muslims. They said that if Catholics were allowed to use Allah, Muslims would be "confused." The confusion would worsen, they said, because Christians recognize a "trinity of gods" while Islam is "totally monotheistic." They said the proper word for God in the Malay language is Tuhan, not Allah. Lau held that the constitution guarantees freedom of religion and speech, and therefore Catholics can use the word Allah to denote God. She also overturned the Home Ministry order prohibiting the Herald from using the word. "The applicants have the right to use the word Allah in the exercise of their rights to freedom of speech and expression," she said. 

However, the ban has remained intact until Lim Guan Eng of the Malaysian Multi-Racial Democratic Party resurrected the the ongoing issue during a Christmas message this year by asking, once again, for the right to use the word "Allah".

The battle, no doubt, will continue, but when I think of "Allah" I think of "Allahu Akbar", and when I think of "Allahu Akbar" I think of 9/11.

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