July 22, 2011 By

In the Name of Allah, Again in Malaysia

2_6A dispute in the name of Allah is gaining momentum in Malaysia with several churches and Christian institutions being attacked in the country following the religious tensions between the Muslims and the Christian communities. The tensions have been mounting up since last month when the High Court passed a law permitting a Roman Catholic newspaper, The Herald, to use the word Allah in its Malay language edition to describe the Christian god.

Churches were said to be attacked with petrol bombs, broken bottles and spattered with black paint with protestors conducting small rallies in different parts of the country. The government has appealed and granted a stay on the rule insisting that the word Allah should be used exclusively for Muslims. The Arabic word “Allah” is used to describe Christian god in Malay language texts and services by the local Christian tribes in the remote states of Sabah and Sarawak and also in the Arabic speaking countries like Egypt, Syria and Indonesia.  Allah is used in the Bahasa Indonesia Bible widely used by Christians worshipping in Bahasa Malaysia. Christians from East Malaysia and Orang Asal make up two-thirds of the Christian population in the country and typically worship in Bahasa Malaysia.

Malaysia’s Muslim community who forms a majority of population suspects that the Christians want to use the word “Allah” to encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity. The Christian minorities had earlier complained that the government interfered in their right to free religious practice and argued that the ban was unreasonable. The government had denied the accusations. The Herald court case became a source of political interest only during the general elections last year when the Malay-Muslim supremacist groups such as Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Malaysia (Perkasa) and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) tried to play up the dispute for strengthening its support among the community. The issue, however, did not favor both the parties.

Amidst the rising communal tensions, Sinar Harian, the Malay-language daily newspaper has finally called off the issue. “After carefully analyzing the situation and following advice from religious leaders, several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as concerned individuals, we have decided to cancel the debate,” the Malay-language newspaper quoted Karangkraf media group’s executive editorial adviser Datuk Abd Jalil Ali as saying in a report on January 27. The Allah issue dates back to more than twenty years and it seems that it is not going to be resolved soon.

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