Christians Can Use Allah Word With Conditions

Note – I am presently too caught up with giving an intensive course on Worldview and Cultural Analysis. As such, I will just post some news updates concerning the controversy over the rights of Malaysian Christians to use the word ‘Allah’.

Precis: The Government gazatte states: Prohibition on use of specific words on document and publication 2. (1) The printing, publication, sale, issue, circulation and possession of any document and publication relating to Christianity containing the words “Allah”, “Kaabah”, “Baitullah” and “Solat” are prohibited unless on the front cover of the document and publication are written with the words “for christianity”. (2) The words “for christianity ” referred to in subparagraph (1) shall be written clearly in font type Arial of size 16 in bold.

More analytical comments will be forthcoming.

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Christians Can Use Allah Word With Conditions (MySinchew 2009.02.26) LINK

BY BOB TEOH, KUALA LUMPUR: In a new twist to the controversial prohibition on the use of the Allah word, the Home Ministry has allowed Christians to use the Allah word with conditions. In a gazette signed by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, the new move comes into force on ten days ago 16 Feb 2009 known as Gazette PU A 62 under section 22 (1)(c) of the Internal Security Act 1969 titled as Internal Security (Prohibition On Use of Specific Words on Document and Publication) Order 2009. The gazatte states: Prohibition on use of specific words on document and publication 2. (1) The printing, publication, sale, issue, circulation and possession of any document and publication relating to Christianity containing the words “Allah”, “Kaabah”, “Baitullah” and “Solat” are prohibited unless on the front cover of the document and publication are written with the words “for christianity”. (2) The words “for christianity ” referred to in subparagraph (1) shall be written clearly in font type Arial of size 16 in bold. A spokesman from the publication and Quranic text divisionof the ministry told mysinchew he was unaware of the gazatte and would check with its legal division. A lawyer who preferred to remain annonymous said he had just received the gazatte notification through an online legal library service. He said for practical reasons, only the Allah word is of importance as Christians do not use the other three words cited in the gazette. “This is good news for Christians as the new move acknowleges the right of Christians to use the Allah word even though with conditions,” he said. He said what the gazette means is that hencefoth, all Bahasa Bibles or Al Kitab must now be stamped with the phrase “For Christianity.” it really depends on Christians themselves to decide how to view the new move. He said they can take it as a pun and which is what it really is that the Bible is for Christianity. But the problem, he pointed ou, is that henceforth all Al Kitab and Chrsitian publications in Bahasa Malaysia must be stamped with the condition even existing copies and this makes it a logistic nightmare. A Christian leader said this matter has to be discussed first as the churches are not even aware of the new ruling. He expressed surprise that this new gazatte has come into force when there are two cases before the courts for a determination on the constitutionality of the earlier prohibition by the ministry. The Catholic Church is suing the government over its insistence that they cannot use the Allah word in the bahasa section of their weekly publication. The Sidang Injil Borneo Sabah (Evangelical Church) is also suing the government over confiscation of their Christian publications imported from Indonesia which contain the word Allah. The Sikhs have also applied to intervene in the suits as they said the outcome would impact them as they too use the word Allah in their Holy Scriptures. Subsequently, a slew of applications from the various state Islamic authorities have been filed with the courts. Thye claim that the civil court has no jurisdiction over the matter. Previously, the Home Ministry in out of court attempts had suggested churches stamp the word “For Christians Only” on the Al Kitab and Bahasa publications. But this was not acceptable to the churches which had counter offered with the phrase – “This is a Christian Publication.” But this was rejected by the ministry. The lawyer also pointed out that the fact that the gazatte singles out only Christians and not Sikhs or other people of other faiths only serves to confirm the contention of Christians that the prohibition is specifically targeted at Christians in violation of their human and constitutional rights on freedom of religion. Hearing on the Herald case resumes at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Friday (27 Feb).

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Christians can use Allah in print, but they cannot say it (Malaysia Insider Feb 26, 2009) LINK

By Debra Chong
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 — The controversial ban on the word “Allah” to mean God for non-Muslims is still in place, said a Malaysian Catholic priest involved in a court dispute over its use.

The Associated Press had reported earlier today that the ban had been lifted with conditions.

“The ban has not been lifted,” Reverend Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald, a Catholic weekly newspaper, told The Malaysian Insider this afternoon.

He said he had recently received a letter from the Home Ministry reinforcing the rule forbidding the word “Allah” in a non-Muslim context.

He explained the ban made exceptions for Christians to use the word “Allah” only in print and under stringent conditions.

“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 on the front cover of the document and publication are written with the words ‘FOR CHRISTIANITY’,” Fr Lawrence said, quoting from the letter dated Feb 16, 2009.

“The words ‘FOR CHRISTIANITY’ referred to in subparagraph (1) shall be written clearly in font type Arial of size 16 in bold,” he added.

The notification, which falls under the Internal Security Act, was gazetted on Feb 16 this year.

“We feel good we can use ‘Allah’ again,” Fr Lawrence said, adding that the March 1 issue of The Herald will bear the required warning on its front page.

But he is wary of celebrating too soon, noting that the order does not allow Christians to use it orally, whether celebrating Mass or other forms of prayer and worship.

“If I had a Malay Bible, but if ‘FOR CHRISTIANITY’ were not printed on its front cover, ahhh, trouble,” the priest said.

Fr Lawrence noted that with the case still going on, the government’s latest move could be seen as acting in contempt of court.

Tomorrow, the High Court here will resume hearing the judicial review filed last year by the Catholic Church against the government over the “Allah” ban.

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And now to another post to hear the response from Muslim activists:

Malaysia Insider (Feb 26 2009) LINK

PKR man upset ‘Allah’ can be used in Christian publications

By Adib Zalkapli
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 — PKR’s Zulkifli Nordin today questioned the decision made by the Home Ministry in allowing the Catholic weekly The Herald to use the word “Allah” in its publications.

“Have they referred to the related decree? The ministry should not compromise on this matter,” said the Kulim Bandar Baharu MP when asked about the decision.

He told The Malaysian Insider that his opposition to the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims were not motivated by theological arguments.

The Home Ministry has allowed Herald to use the word “Allah”, but the publication has to clearly print the words “For Christianity” on its cover.

“We should look at the social context where the word is used by the Malay Muslims in the country, what is the reason behind their insistence on using ‘Allah’,” said Zulkifli.

Earlier in his speech while debating the motion of thanks to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, the first term MP express his unhappiness with The Herald’s editor Lawrence Andrew’s statement on the use of the word Allah by the publication.

“I am worried that the word ‘Allah’ was used with the aim to confuse the Muslims,” said Zulkifli referring to leaflets in Malay promoting Christianity which he claimed was distributed in a Malay-majority school in Ampang.

“Does God’s name follow the race or language,” said Zulkifli.

He added that the word “Allah” which is also used in the Malay version of the Bible, Al-Kitab would also confuse the Muslims.

“I have no problem with the use of the Malay language, but by using the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God, it made the Muslims unhappy, I have met a lot of them who told me this,” he said in his speech.

Zulkifli has always been consistent in raising issues relating to Islam which often contradicts the common stand agreed to by Pakatan Rakyat leaders.

Last year he led a protest against a closed door forum on Islam, saying that the event organised by the Bar Council was an attempt to question the position of Islam as the religion of the federation.

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One Response to “Christians Can Use Allah Word With Conditions”

  1. Interesting Says:

    Albert Hourani’s statement: “The Islamic name used for God was ‘Allah’, which was already in use for one of the local Gods (it now used by Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians as the name of God (A history Of Arab people by Albert Hourani, 1991, page-16, Belknap press of Harvard University, USA).

    Hourani seems to state that Allah is a god of Light. It is said that Al-ilah is the moon god of pagan Arabs which became shortened to Allah.

    As a reason supporting this it is said that since pre-Islam (pagan) Arabs used to give their children names such as Abdullah (slave of Allah) it should be OK for any Arab to use the word in that sense. They give proof based on the fact that, Prophet Muhammad’s father’s name was Abdullah. (Syed Kamran Mirza http://www.faithfreedom.org/Articles/skm30804.htm)

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