FT mufti calls for an end to ‘Allah’ polemic, says resolution should focus on definition, right use of word

Yiswaree Palansamy
·3-min read
The High Court on March 10 delivered its decision in Sarawakian Bumiputera Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill’s challenge against the home minister and the Malaysian government, with the court ruling that the federal government’s 1986 ban via a Home Ministry written directive on the use of the word ‘Allah’ in all Christian publications is illegal and unconstitutional. — Picture by Hari Anggara
The High Court on March 10 delivered its decision in Sarawakian Bumiputera Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill’s challenge against the home minister and the Malaysian government, with the court ruling that the federal government’s 1986 ban via a Home Ministry written directive on the use of the word ‘Allah’ in all Christian publications is illegal and unconstitutional. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 — Federal Territories mufti Datuk Luqman Abdullah advised today against further arguments over the Arabic word for God, “Allah”, and said the dispute should be resolved by referring to the local definition and usage of the word.

Berita Harian (BH) reported Luqman saying that those who continued to make the matter an issue “must be addressed” to avoid confusing the public, especially Muslim community.

He reportedly said that if the public understood the definition and the fatwa (religious edict) about the word ‘Allah’, such issues would not crop up again.

“On the issue of the ‘Allah’ word, we need to go to the most basic question which is the Muslims’ belief that Allah is the god they’re obliged to worship, there is only one god, and there is no other deity.

“If that becomes the basis, then any other usage of the word other than that will surely cause Muslims to become sensitive. Logically, we can accept what is currently happening, but it must be understood that we must also handle polemics over the issue.

“If we can accept the word ‘Allah’ as it was defined and decreed in most states in Malaysia, including on a national level, so there should have been no more issues,” he was reported saying in the Syariat Didaulat: Perpaduan Diangkat forum, last night.

The High Court on March 10 delivered its decision in Sarawakian Bumiputera Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill’s challenge against the home minister and the Malaysian government, with the court ruling that the federal government’s 1986 ban via a Home Ministry written directive on the use of the word “Allah” in all Christian publications is illegal and unconstitutional.

The High Court granted three declarations sought by Jill Ireland, including a declaration that the government directive issued by the Home Ministry’s publications control division via a circular dated December 5, 1986 is unlawful and unconstitutional.

This December 1986 circular which banned the word “Allah” in all Christian publications was used by the government to justify the seizure of eight educational compact discs (CDs) — all containing the word ‘Allah’ in their titles — which Jill Ireland had brought back to Malaysia from Indonesia for her own use.

The two other orders granted to the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Sarawakian of the Melanau tribe is that it is Jill Ireland’s constitutional right under the Federal Constitution’s Article 3, 8, 11 and 12 to import the publications — in the form of the eight CDs — in exercise of her rights to practice religion and right to education, and a declaration under Article 8 that Jill Ireland is guaranteed equality of all persons before the law and is protected from discrimination against citizens on the grounds of religion in the administration of the law ― specifically the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and Customs Act 1967.

“Allah”, the Arabic word for God, was adopted into the national language generations ago and used for hundreds of years by Malay-speaking Christians in the country, especially those living in Sabah and Sarawak. The word is also part of terms referring to God in the indigenous languages of tribes in east Malaysia such as the Iban, Bidayuh, Lun Bawang, Lun Dayeh and Kelabit.

The local Christian community has previously explained that the word “Tuhan” could not be used as a substitute word for God, as they said it means “Lord” instead.

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