Malaysia

Sikhs say Selangor ‘Allah’ decree will restrict their religious freedom

January 08, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — The umbrella body for all Sikh temples in Malaysia has said it is saddened by the Selangor Sultan’s latest decree banning non-Muslims in the state from using the word “Allah”.

The Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) added that any move to stop non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” in a religious text would be a restriction on Sikhs from practising their religion.

“The Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) is saddened to note that a decree has been issued by His Highness the Sultan of Selangor that non-Muslims in the state are banned from using the word Allah as it is a holy word exclusive to Muslims.

“The MGC is further dismayed that no exceptions have been made in the decree,” MGC president Jagir Singh said in a statement.

Sultan Sharafuddin (picture) has called for an emergency meeting with state Islamic religious officials to bar non-Muslims from using the Arabic word for god, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) said today.

The statement from the state’s highest Islamic authority came today despite a High Court ruling in December 2009 that the word “Allah” was not restricted to Muslims and the Catholic Church had the right to published the word in the Malay section of its weekly newspaper, Herald.

Besides Christians, Sikhs also use the word “Allah” in religious texts.

“The MGC wishes to educate Malaysians that the word ‘Allah’ is an integral part of the original text of the Sikh Holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Allah has been used numerous times in the original text to refer to the omnipotent, omnipresent, compassionate and merciful one God,” said Jagir.

He said that any curtailment of the use of the word Allah in the original text will be tantamount to prohibiting Sikhs from reading their holy book and practising their religion as enshrined in the federal constitution.

Despite the Selangor Sultan’s latest decree banning non-Muslims in the state from using the word “Allah”, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) confirmed today its stand on the controversy, insisting that Islam does not prohibit others from using the word.

Explaining the federal opposition’s position, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang told a joint press conference with PR leaders here that Christians and other non-Muslim communities should not abuse the word to spread confusion among Muslims but this did not mean they were not allowed to use the word.

“Islam does not stop those of other faiths from using kalimah ‘Allah’ in their practice, although [in the usage of the word by non-Muslims] it does not refer to the original meaning of the word as according to the al-Quran,” he said, reading from a statement.

The “Allah” storm was reignited recently when Lim Guan Eng, the opposition DAP’s secretary-general, raised the controversial “Allah” issue in his Christmas message urging the federal government to lift its ban on the word published in the Malay bibles shipped in to Sabah and Sarawak, who form the bulk of Malaysia’s 9.2 per cent Christian population.

In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim god.

Shipments of the Alkitab, the Malay-language Bible catering to the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Bumiputera Christians, were blocked or confiscated at ports, before the government finally bowed to pressure and released them in 2011.