Malaysian court rules only Muslims can use Allah

The reasoning behind the court ruling is that if Christians use Allah - muslims will be confused and might want to convert.

I had read somewhere that Arab Christians do not say Allah.

Evidently some Christians in Malaysia do.

Thoughts?

I had read somewhere that Arab Christians do not say Allah.

No idea where you read that, but it’s wrong. Arabic-speaking (not only ethnically Arab) Christians most definitely use the word Allah, all the time. The word predates the invention of Islam and is but one reflex of the common Semitic root '-L-(H), surfacing in Arabic as “Allah”, in Syriac as “Alaha” or “Aloho”, in Hebrew as “El”, etc.

My thoughts on the Malaysian courts’ decision? It’s stupid, just like it was the last time they did this. “Allah” is a loanword for all religious communities in Malaysia, Muslim and Christian alike. What are the Christians supposed to do – import a different loanword because Malaysian Muslim jurists don’t know history or how words work? Dumb.

:thumbsup:

MJ

I wish I could remember now where I read that. It has been recent in like the last 3 months I think and the word the article said they used was unfamiliar to me. I remember it struck me because on a CAF thread someone had said what you are saying so it was a contradiction.

I guess they must be worried about conversions there.

To give the case

The case
The case was brought by a Catholic newspaper, the Catholic Herald, which received a letter in 2009 from the Home Ministry (which issues licenses for publications) prohibiting it from using the word Allah in its publications as it could cause confusion to Muslims. The case was first heard on 31 Dec 2009 by a non-Muslim judge who ruled that the Ministry has erred, sparking off a spate of church fire-bombings (causing no casualties or significant damage).

The Government appealed and won the appeal at the Court of Appeal Oct 2013 when a bench of 3 Muslim judges decided that the word Allah is not integral to the Christian religion, which in part was supported by research done on the internet by the judge himself (the research was unverified and would not have quaified as evidence in any other court of law). The Catholic Church appealed to the Federal Court and the hearing is to determine whether it should hear the appeal.

The Malaysian Church
The Malaysian Catholic church is very multi-racial, wih many churches having quadri-lingual (English, Malay, Chinese & Tamil) masses to cater for the small communities that can be found in each parish. Nationwide, 60% are Malay-speaking (non-Malays who uses Malay as the lingua franca), 25% are Chinese and 15% Indian, with English being spoken by at least 20% of all Catholics as a first or second language. Non-Catholic churches have similar composition.

Most of Malay-speaking Christians are resident in the two states in the island of Borneo, which joined Malaysia in 1963, under an agreement which guarantees freedom of religion, as enshrined in the Malaysian constitution. These are the only two states in Malaysia in 1963, where there is a plurality of Christians (due to mass conversion programmes and an illegally-organised mass immigration programme, one of the states now have a Muslim majority).

The Malay-speaking Christians were evangelised since the days of the Portugese in the 16th century, but most of them were coverted with the wave of evanglisation by French Catholic priests and British missionary societies in the 19th century.

The first Malay-language Bible were translated by the Dutch (who colonised Indonesia) in 17th century. Malay-language Bibles have since then used the word Allah to denote God, including a NT translation by Munshi Abdullah, a giant of Malay (Muslim) literature.

The Catholic Herald publishes a single weekly newspaper in the four languages used by the Malaysian church.

Political Islam in Malaysia
By definition in the constitution, a Malay (as distinct from those using Malay as a lingua franca) is a Muslim. Malays now comprise about 50% of the population with a further 10-15% Malay-speaking non-Malays, classified as Bumiputera and mostly in Malaysian Borneo.

Malaysia is ruled by a permanent coalition of racial-based parties since independence in 1957. Umno, the Malay political party, hold the political power in Malaysia, with the support of Chinese, Indian and non-Malay Bumiputera Borneo parties. Recent political developments have eroded political support for this coalition, leading to it losing the popular vote for the first time last year to an opposition coalition 47%-51% yet still won 60% of parliamentary seats (largely through uneven political rights and an Election Commission perceived to be partial). The government has since retreated into further polarised racial politics to short up its support base among the Muslim Malays.

There is a high level of sentitivity towards apsotasy among Malays, with high level of pressure and re-education camps being the deterrent. This is largely due to the perceived loss of political power of Malays (via lower numbers) if Malays convert out of Islam (and therefore will no longer be Malays). Non-Muslims are prohibited by law from evangelising Muslims, while there is a lot of allegations of late, no evidence of evangelisation have emerged.

The outcome
Technically, the Malaysian Federal Court did not rule on the case as it did not allow the appeal to go to a full hearing (4-3 ruling with the 2 non-Muslims and one of the 5 Muslim judges voting for the appeal). This conveniently avoids the necessity of having to rule on facts presented, which clearly documents the long-standing use of Allah by Malay-speaking Christians.

The government (with an eye on upcoming election in a Borneo state with a Christian plurality) was quick to state that the ban only applies to the Herald and Malay-speakers can continue to use Allah in church services and in Malay-language Bibles.

However, it is clear that a legal precedent has been set that Allah is not integral to Christian worship. As such, government assurance notwithstanding, Islamic authorities could easily use this ruling to support further restrictions on valid Christian worship. Indeed, Islamic authorities have recently seized Malay Bibles with the word Allah in them and have refused to return them even though the Attorney-General has clarified that they did not violate the law.

I know the position is complicated and I have left out much that could muddy the waters further. I ask the Christian faithful throughout the world for your support by prayers and by asking your government to continually raise the issue of full freedom of worship with the Malaysian government. Godbless and thank you.

Truly a great sign of an insecure religion OR/AND government (advisers). Desperate enough to copyright God and switch off the use of a brain.

It is! I once sent my car to a workshop owned by a Malay Muslim to do some remedial bodyworks after some dents. Although he worked outside the car, the workman took down my rosary hanging from my rear-view mirror. I can understand if he is working inside the car and the dangling roasry is distracting him but he was working outside my car! Does it mean he feels that the rosary is a threat to his faith?

Ive heard that the PM of Malaysia was commending the Isis fighters. What’s up with that?

Can you clarify what PM said?

MJ

He was just being clumsy, as usual.

He was saying that members of Umno, the ruling Malay party, must be (among several other listed virtues) brave and used ISIS fighters as examples of brave fighters. His Office later issued a clarification.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.