Good news just in. The Herald is now allowed to use ‘Allah’ in its Malay-language publication. Well, as long as the newspaper makes it clear that its material is not for Muslims, The Star reports. Hhmm. Fair enough.
There was a brouhaha some months ago when “The [Malaysian] government argued that Allah is an Islamic word and its use by others might confuse Muslims, who might think Allah refers to their God.”
The Herald, the Roman Catholic Church’s main newspaper in Malaysia, has already started printing “For Christianity” on its cover, said its editor Rev. Lawrence Andrew.
The Herald publishes weekly in English, Mandarin, Tamil and Malay with an estimated readership of 50,000. The ban on “Allah” concerns mainly the Malay edition, which is read mostly by indigenous Christian tribes in the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak. The other three editions usually do not use “Allah.”
Andrew said although the order “makes things easier” for the Herald, the paper will not drop its legal challenge against the ban. A court is due to hear arguments in the case on Friday. The Herald is arguing that the Arabic word is a common reference for God that predates Islam and has been used for centuries as a translation in Malay.
Andrew said the new order is still a violation of religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution because Christians will not be able to use any literature that does not carry the statutory warning on the cover, including a lot of imported material. He said most Malay-language Bibles in Malaysia are imported from Indonesia, where the language is more widely spoken.
“If this (order) is enforced, it will be difficult to possess materials … from Indonesia, and thus practicing our religion will not be easy. This goes against … the Constitution,” he told The Associated Press. Andrew said the order also prohibits the use of three other Arabic words “solat,” or prayer, “Kaaba,” a holy site in Saudi Arabia, and “baitullah,” or house of God without the statutory warning.
Read the rest here.
Jacqueline Ann Surin at the The Nutgraph argues that the ban indicated some deeply-set religious insecurity among Malays-Muslims in Malaysia:
What strikes me the most about the government’s insistence on restricting the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims is sharp, irrational fear.
Fear that Malay-Muslims in Malaysia may lose their faith and flock instead to other faiths that also have the same name for the Almighty. Fear that perchance, the state has one less area where it can control Malay-Muslim thought and experience about diversity and similarities in different cultures and faiths in Malaysia.
Read the rest here.
It’s obvious that at the time of the ban, those in the Malaysian Home Ministry did not do their homework. In their zeal, not only did they not know that ‘Allah’ is a pre-Islamic name for The Almighty, but also the fact that it is widely used by other Abrahamic religions and even Sikhism.
All that talk about racial and religious cohesion that Malaysia and its ‘Truly Asia’ nonsense are so proud of is purely lip service. This is where Malaysians of different religions can feel some sense of inclusivity – through a shared use of language, even if it is the Malay language.