KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 ― Federal religious authorities warned Muslims nationwide today of attempts by “enemies of Islam” to confuse them into believing that all religions are the same, prolonging the debate over the usage of “Allah” by Christians even as it drives a deeper wedge between the country’s two most dominant religions.
In today’s Friday sermon prepared by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) here, Muslims were told that being too open-minded and allowing Islamic rights to be abused by other religions was a “dangerous” act.
“It is very clear that, today, enemies of Islam are seeking to divert and undermine the Muslim community’s faith.
“They are united among themselves and are attempting, with their many tricks and ways, to stake their claim on the usage of ‘Allah’ in their scriptures,” the sermon said.
JAKIM insisted that “Allah”, a word that millions of Arab Christians and those in non-Arabic-speaking lands use to describe their God, belongs to Muslims and is an exclusive right to those who profess Islam as it is clearly to prevent Muslims from becoming confused over the true identity of their God.
Citing unnamed academic research, JAKIM said that the word “Allah” was never found in the Bible as God ― to Christians ― exists as the Trinity of “God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.”
The general term for the Holy Trinity, said the religious department, is “The Lord” which is the English translation of biblical text.
As such, JAKIM insisted that the National Fatwa Council’s 2008 decision on the matter was accurate in stating that “Allah” cannot be used by those of other religions and cannot be likened to the gods of others.
“We would like to say that as Muslims who believes in Allah and his messenger, then it becomes our responsibility to preserve the sanctity and defend the word ‘Allah’ in the best way possible, and should there be elements of insult and abuse, it should be stopped in accordance with provisions in the Federal Constitution.
“Muslims must be firm in protecting the sanctity and the identity of their religion,” JAKIM said in the sermon.
The authority also warned that painful punishment would await disbelievers in the afterlife, noting that these “symptoms” of Islam’s collapse would only destroy the glory and prestige of Muslims here.
The “Allah” dispute, which first erupted after the watershed Election 2008, remains a hot-button topic in the run-up to this year’s polls.
Debate resurfaced last month after DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who is also the Penang chief minister, called on Putrajaya in his Christmas message to lift a ban on Malay-language bibles in Borneo Malaysia.
Hot on the heels of the DAP leader’s remarks, several state Rulers and Islamic religious authorities reminded non-Muslims of state laws banning use of the word, despite conflicting with a 2009 High Court judgment that ruled “Allah” was not exclusive to Islam.
In his defence of the issue, Muslim cleric Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said in a recent lecture that Muslims who dispute the use of “Allah” by non-Muslims are those confused about their own faith.
In a 14-minute video clip posted on YouTube, the former Perlis mufti explained that while the government has a right to restrict usage of the Arabic word for God, it should not use religion as an excuse because Islam allows for followers of other faiths the right to call their gods “Allah” if they are referring to the Supreme Being.
Mohd Asri highlighted that Jews and Christians in the Middle East have been using “Allah” from long ago and continue to do so without any confusion — an argument adopted by non-Muslims in Malaysia, particularly the churches.
“Firstly, when did Christians first call Al-Masih the son of Allah? When? Yesterday? Did it start with the Penang gang? Or has it been since a long time ago? When?” the 42-year-old Islamic studies lecturer said in a seminar that was video-recorded and posted online under the title “Penggunaan Nama ALLAH Oleh Bukan Islam [Use of the name ALLAH by non-Muslims]”.
Al-Masih is the Arabic name for Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe to be an aspect of God, but the Muslim community here has argued that the use of the word “Allah” should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word denotes the Muslim God.
But the scholar had also insisted that he was not defending the Christians but simply stating a fact.
“Allah refers to the Supreme Being, it does not refer to the idols. Allah refers to the essence of God,” he said, stressing that “basically, they can if they are referring to the Supreme Being”.
But stepping into the fray was Malay rights leader Datuk Ibrahim Ali who rejected all claims to “Allah” by non-Muslims, even invited Malays last Saturday to burn Malay language Bibles that use the word.
Ibrahim’s remarks sparked an even greater firestorm of protests and resulted in several police reports lodged against the controversial Pasir Mas MP.