Christian Malaysians have done so for years, which is only natural when speaking the Malay language. This 400-year-old Malay-Latin dictionary shows how long that usage of the word has been normal.
This incident is nothing new. In 2009, the Malaysian government confiscated 10,000 Bibles for the same reason. There is also the long-running dispute with the Malaysian Catholic publication The Herald over its use of Allah.
Yes, Qur’an 29:46 says, “Our Allah and your Allah is One, and unto Him we surrender,” but it is a talking point for Islamic proselytizing, and a one-way line of discourse, in a manner in which a non-Muslim would be prohibited from preaching to a Muslim under Islamic law. Thus, the ultimate thrust of that Qur’anic verse is: “We worship your god, but we do it right, and you’re doing it wrong.”
Hence the opportunistic objections to Christians’ use of the name in Malaysia. To forbid the the use of “Allah” and force them to find another name is an attempt to cast their beliefs as illegitimate by being able to say: “See? They don’t worship ‘Allah’!”
“Christians protest: government blocks 30 thousand Bibles in Malay,” from Asia News, March 12:
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The largest Christian organization in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, said it is “fed up” of the government’s refusal to allow the distribution of tens of thousands of Bibles. It argues that it is an affront to religious freedom. It is a rare protest by the Christian Federation of Malaysia. It ‘s also a sign of growing impatience among the religious minorities, over the dispute, now years old, on the government ban on the use of the word “Allah” as a translation of the word “God” in the Bible and Christian religious texts in the Malay language.
Federation president, Bishop Ng Moon Hing said that the authorities are holding 30 thousand copies of the Bible in Malay in a port of the island of Borneo. This is the latest attempt by Christians to import Bibles, particularly from Indonesia, after previous attempts failed. There are no problems for texts in English.
The Federation has issued a statement in which says that “Christians are greatly disillusioned, tired and irritated” by the continuing blockade of Bibles. “It would seem that the authorities are conducting an ongoing program, surreptitiously and systematically against Christians in Malaysia, denying them access to the Bible in Malay language.”
The Interior Ministry has not responded. The government on similar occasions in the past has admitted that there was a prohibition, but argued that it was the fault of the importer who had failed to fulfil certain formalities. In reality the problem stems from the government’s position that the use of the term ‘Allah’ in non-Muslim texts might confuse Muslims, and even lead to conversion to Christianity. Almost two thirds of the 28 million people are Malay Muslims, while 25% are Chinese and 8% are Indians. Ethnic minorities are overwhelmingly Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.
In December 2009 a court ruled that Christians have the constitutional right to use the terme “Allah”. The government has appealed against the verdict, but no hearing has yet been set. The Court’s decision in January 2010 caused temporary tensions, and anger of Muslim extremists. Eleven churches were attacked. The Catholic Church has reissued a Latin- Malaysian dictionary more than 400 years old to prove the ancient use of the word “Allah” in a Christian sense in the country.