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Malaysian churches to defy ban on 'Allah'
Publication Date : 10-01-2013
Churches in Malaysia said they will continue using "Allah" to refer to the Christian God, defying a decree by the Sultan of Selangor that only Muslims can use the word.
Two church bodies yesterday said in statements that "Allah" has been used by Christians for centuries, and that they regarded this as part of their constitutional right to the freedom of worship.
This comes after the Sikh community said the ban on "Allah" would be a restriction on its religious practices as the word has long been used in its scriptures.
Religion is a combustible topic in predominantly-Muslim Malaysia, and the minority non-Muslims have tended to avoid rocking the boat. But in recent years, they have become more vocal, turning long-suppressed issues into potential election fodder for the polls, to be held within six months.
The long-standing dispute over the use of "Allah" last exploded in 2010 when the High Court allowed the Catholic Church's publication, Herald, to use "Allah" to refer to the Christian God. Some Muslims were angry and two Muslim men firebombed a church.
It recently flared up again after Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng urged the government to allow the import of Malay-language bibles using the word "Allah".
The Sultan of Selangor, who is head of religion in the state, subsequently issued a decree that the word was a holy one exclusive for Muslims, and banned its use by non-Muslims in Selangor.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia, which represents the mainstream Protestant churches and the Catholic Church, yesterday issued an indignant statement.
"Malaysian Christians have been using the word 'Allah' in our Bahasa Malaysia bibles and in our faith to signify the Almighty God, and we will continue to do so," said its chairman Ng Moon Hing.
The Council of Churches of Malaysia, representing Protestant churches, said many indigenous communities use "Allah" daily. "We shall continue this practice... and call on all parties to respect this fundamental right," it said.
The issue has turned political. The opposition Pakatan Rakyat, including Parti Islam SeMalaysia, agreed that "Allah" can be used by non-Muslims if it is not used to try to convert Muslims. The ruling Barisan Nasional has not come up with a clear position.