Sarawak CM: Unlike elsewhere, Christians in the state free to use the word ‘Allah’

Sulok Tawie
·2-min read
‘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. — Picture by Choo Choy May
‘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. — Picture by Choo Choy May

MULU, April 6 — Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg tonight reiterated the state government’s position that the Christian natives are free to use the word “Allah” when referring to God in their prayers.

He said Sarawak is an inclusive state where people of different beliefs are living in harmony and in peace among themselves.

“That is why there are no differences in our faiths, backgrounds, and cultures,” he said at a dinner attended by community leaders at a resort here.

“In Sarawak, the Christians can use the word ‘Allah’ any time if you want to use it, no problem, unlike in another place,” the chief minister said.

He said Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia that allocates funds, through the Unit for Other Religion (Unifor) in the chief minister’s office, for the construction of churches and temples.

He said he has approved allocations for the construction of churches, including RM10 million last year.

“All of us believe in God, and our religions remind us not to tell lies or slander other people. I am holding to this belief.

“After all, it is between you and God. Only God knows what you want,” he said.

He said Sarawak is peaceful not only about religions but also on politics.

Last month, Selangor’s Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah said that the use of the word “Allah” in reference to God in Christian publications or the Christians’ Bible in Bahasa Malaysia will not be allowed in the state.

On March 10, the High Court granted three declarations sought by Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, 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.

“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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