Malaysia

Stop demanding religious equality, says ex-Fatwa Council chief

Malaysian Muslims insist that the word “Allah” should be exclusive to them. — File picMalaysian Muslims insist that the word “Allah” should be exclusive to them. — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 ― Non-Muslims should drop their demand to use “Allah” for their gods as the Arabic word is fundamental to Islamic belief and therefore exclusive to Muslims, National Fatwa Council former chairman Datuk Dr Ismail Ibrahim was reported saying in a Malay daily.

Ismail was weighing in on the latest debate over the Arabic word for god, in a row between Islamist opposition party PAS and its secular ally, DAP, which appears to be a hot-button topic in the run-up to national polls due soon.

“Enough is enough, enough with all the other policies, including the ones enshrined in the Constitution that has been claimed for equality, to be granted equal rights... therefore the right to recognise the concept of the divinity in this religion, don’t grab, challenge and manipulate so. The name ‘Allah’ is still something basic and fundamental to Islam.

“The name ‘Allah’, from a philosophical point, its definition and concept is not equal with the name Tuhan, God, Lord and so on in the usage of other religions,” he was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian in its front-page report today.

Ismail was further reported saying those insisting the word “Allah” be allowed for use in Malay bibles should desist due to linguistic and cultural differences.

He gave an example that Arabs could swear by the word “Wallahi” hundreds of times in their daily conversation but the oath was incomparable to that understood by Muslim Malaysians in the local language and that this difference between an ordinary oath and the Syariah term was explained in the Quran.

“The same, therefore, with the use of the name ‘Allah’ that is being attempted to be compared with other languages, especially Arabic, even though this comparison should be understood from a linguistic and cultural angle between Malay and Arabic,” Ismail told the newspaper.

Without naming anyone, he urged the parties against looking for petty reasons to justify the usage of “Allah” for the Christian god.

Christians form 9.2 per cent of Malaysia’s 28.3 million-strong population, with many in east Malaysia using the Malay language and the word “Allah” to refer to their God.

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.

A legal tussle over the use of the word “Allah” remains unresolved, with the Catholic Church still barred from publishing the word in its weekly newspaper, despite winning a High Court decision on December 31, 2009.

This is due to the Home Ministry filing an appeal in January 2010 against the High Court’s decision, which has since stagnated in the courts as no date has been set for its hearing.

Last year, shipments of the Alkitab, the Malay-language Bible catering to the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Bumiputera Christians, were blocked from entry or confiscated at ports, before the government finally bowed to pressure and released them.

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